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September 17, 2012

Indefinite bus strike in Kolkata

     Kolkata: Private buses have gone off city roads indefinitely from Monday demanding for fare revision following the Rs. 5/litre hike in diesel prices. Taxis will join the shutdown from Thursday, while traders' organisations and Left Front have already called for a shutdown on the same day to protest FDI in multi-brand retail. On Sunday, state Transport Minister Madan Mitra held a meeting with transport operators. However, two major private bus operators' organisations — the Joint Council of Bus Syndicate and the Bengal Bus Syndicate — skipped the meeting. Interacting with media, Mitra assured that public transport would not be hit hard. “We will press the entire fleet of all five transport PSUs to mitigate the impact of the strike. Minibus operators have assured that they will operate. Autos will also run. I don't think the public transport would collapse. I have requested all transport operators to wait till September 18. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has already hit the road with her protest against diesel price rise. We are hopeful of a breakthrough shortly,” Mitra said. Mitra added the strike should have been deferred on account of Vishwakarma Puja on Monday. Vishwakarma Puja is a resolution time for workers and craftsmen to increase productivity and gain divine inspiration for creating novel products. It usually takes place within the factory premises or shop floor and also associated with it is the custom of flying kites. Bus operators claimed that 37,000 buses will be off the roads from Monday morning. They have demanded that the minimum fare should be Rs 7 for normal buses and Rs 9 for JNNURM buses. Private bus owners have said diesel prices had risen nine times in 2009, from Rs 33.21 to Rs 50.71, and during the period no fare hike was allowed. “Everything rose, except our income and passengers,” Bengal Bus Syndicate's Dipak Sarkar, said.
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