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Unannounced taxi strike stumps commuters in Kolkata

Posted on Aug 07 2014 | IANS

Kolkata, Aug 7 : Commuters in the eastern metropolis Thursday faced a tough time as a section of taxi drivers called a sudden strike and refused to ply on arterial roads, protesting alleged police atrocities. Traffic was thrown off gear due to the abrupt halt in services during peak hours.

As many as 1,500 cabbies choked traffic as they gathered on a key stretch of the road between Esplanade in the central part of the city and College Street towards the north.

Police resorted to cane-charge to control the mob that obstructed traffic.

The unannounced strike was the culmination of a stand-off between the transport department and taxi owners' associations pressing for a fare hike and protesting oppressive policies introduced by the government, particularly the no-refusal scheme.

"This has damaged the city. It is disgusting the way they called a sudden strike and inconvenienced commuters. We had to send 200 extra buses to the Howrah, Sealdah stations and the airport," Transport Minister Madan Mitra told reporters here.

Stretches like Beleghata, Ultadanga, Park Circus, Mudiali and Bowbazaar were deprived of cabs affiliated to the All India Trade Union Congress and the Centre of Indian Trade Unions.

Bimal Guha of the Bengal Taxi Association was also caught unawares. Some of the participants in the strike were linked to his organisation.

"This is a dark spot on us. I want to tell all the cab drivers that I have spoken to the minister about the fare hike. We will have another meeting Aug 19 and I know he will agree. Breaking and damaging vehicles is not the way," Guha said.

The no-refusal system has been met with resistance from cab drivers due to the absence of time demarcated for lunch and breaks and also the penalty imposed (Rs.3,000-Rs.5,000) on them if they refuse to service passengers.

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