Tourist taxis remained off the road in Goa for the second day today as the state government refused to accept their main demand of exempting them from installing speed governors in their vehicles. With the BJP-led government taking a firm stand, the agitating taxi operators said they will continue with their strike tomorrow also.
The strike has left tourists stranded at various transit points in the state, where peak tourist season is on. However, the traditional yellow and black cab operators, who joined the stir yesterday, withdrew from the strike declared illegal by the state government. “We have decided to continue with the strike even tomorrow as the state government has failed to listen to our demands. No taxi will operate in the state,” Vinayak Nanoskar, General Secretary, the North Goa Tourist Taxi Association, told reporters this evening.
Hundreds of taxi operators camped at the historic Azad Maidan here, where various political leaders visited them. “A batch of ten taxis was sent from the airport with passengers to ensure they are not attacked on the way by the agitators. “We can’t keep the passengers stranded at the airport,” a senior member of the Yellow and Black Taxi Operators’ Association told PTI.
“Not a single taxi is operating in the state. We have been protesting peacefully,” Nanoskar said earlier in the day. Due to the strike, around 18,000-odd taxis are off the road in the coastal state. The yellow and black taxis number around 350.
A number of passengers were stranded at various places, including the airport and railway stations. To minimise the impact of the strike, state-run Kadamba Transport Corporation Ltd has deployed additional buses to ferry air and train passengers.
A leading association of private buses has threatened to join the stir from Monday in support of the agitating taxi operators. “We are fully with the taxi operators in their strike. We will also keep our buses off the road from Monday to support them,” said All Goa Bus Owners Association General Secretary Sudip Tamankar. He claimed the bus operators were also facing a similar problem with the Goa government insisting that speed governors be installed in their vehicles. Among other demands, the taxi operators are seeking exemption from the government from the Supreme Court order of installing speed governors.
The BJP-led government has invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) and declared the strike as illegal. The Act includes a list of “essential services” and gives police the right to arrest, without a warrant, anybody violating its provisions. However, no action has been taken against the agitating taxi operators.
Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has declined to accept the demands. “I cannot do anything if they continue with the strike as whatever they are demanding is not as per the law. I cannot tell you what measures I will take if the strike continues, but I am watching it,” Parrikar said.
The CM was speaking at a press conference he had called to explain legal position on the issue. Parrikar said the government has not received any formal communication from the taxi operators about their demands.
“I don’t know the exact reason for the strike. The government has not got in writing what exactly the taxi owners are demanding. “I had received a three to four line letter from the taxi owners on January 15 stating they will go off the road from January 19. I received this letter on January 18.
Parrikar said the issue of speed governors first surfaced in May last year. “On May 1, 2017 the Central government withdrew the exemption granted to taxi operators for installing speed governors as per advice of the Supreme Court’s committee on road safety,” he said.
Parrikar said the government allowed tourist taxis to operate by giving them fitness certificates with the hope they will install speed governors by February 24, 2018, the deadline set by the state to complete the process. “It was a measure taken to allow them to fit speed governors by February 24, 2018. We cannot give them exemption after February 24 by which time they have to install speed governors as per law,” the chief minister said. “After February 24, the law will prevail. Whatever I understand is that their demand cannot be accepted as per the law,” Parrikar said.
“There are 4,500 taxi operators who have already installed speed governors in their vehicles and are eligible for getting fitness certificates,” he said.
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