Around 35,000 taxis kept off roads today,inconveniencing commuters in the city. Bengal Taxi Association,along with CITU Workers Union,Taxi Drivers Welfare Union,Kolkata Taxi Operators Union AITUC,had called a 24-hour strike in support of a host of other demands,including a hike in fare.
It is a legitimate strike. It will be impossible to feed our families if the fare is not increased, said Bimal Guha,general secretary of Bengal Taxi Association.
Among other demands,he said they wanted licences to be delivered fast to drivers,steps to be taken against police atrocities and proper taxi stands to be made. Taxi drivers are charged Rs 3 for standing at a particular place. This practice should stop, he said.
He also said that private vehicles,which were being used commercially to carry passengers,posed unwanted and illegitimate competition to them.
Transport minister Madan Mitra,on the other hand,maintained that there were enough alternatives on the roads today and said that the unions were forcing taxi drivers to stay off roads.
The government will take stern steps against these people and if people are abstaining from work in spite of having a valid permit,their permits will be cancelled and would be given to the unemployed youths of the city, he said.
Reacting to this,Guha said the minister has the attitude of a dictator,depriving them of their rights, adding that Lalbazar officials had called him up to congratulate him on the peaceful strike and said that if the government didnt take steps to help the taxi owners and drivers,they would go for a bigger movement.
Next month,it would be a 72-hour strike or one for an indefinite period, Guha said.
The strike today had crippled the public transport system. Private vehicles were seen ferrying passengers from Howrah,Sealdah railway stations and the airport to different places of the city at 4-5 times the normal rate.