37,000 taxis go off city roads inconveniencing commuters

Taxis went off roads in the city on Friday with major taxi unions, including the Left-backed ones, calling for a day-long strike, causing inconvenience to commuters and passengers at railway stations and airport.

Kolkata: Taxis went off roads in the city on Friday with major taxi unions, including the Left-backed ones, calling for a day-long strike, causing inconvenience to commuters and passengers at railway stations and airport.

Long-distance travellers had to face hardships to reach their destinations with no taxis at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport and two major railway stations ? Howrah and Sealdah.

"I had no clue about this taxi strike in Kolkata. I have to go to Rajarhat and not a single taxi is there. I have my ailing father with me and these private cars are asking for an exorbitant fare. I don't know what to do," Surajit Chowdhury, who returned from Secunderabad this morning, said at Howrah station.

Following the withdrawal of around 37,000 taxis from the city roads, other modes of public transport such as government and private buses, trams and Metro train services were overcrowded.

Around 2,000 taxi drivers and workers, supported by the CITU, rallied to the state secretariat, Nabanna from Howrah station and submitted a letter with their demands to the Chief Minister's Office, CITU leader Anadi Sahu told PTI.

The CITU with support of the AITUC, major taxi unions, other than the Trinamool Congress-backed Progressive Taxi Union, called the strike demanding a revised fare structure besides scrapping of the Rs 3,000 fine imposed on drivers for refusing passengers.

"Taxi drivers have a very legitimate demand. Fares were last revised in 2012. Not only the fuel prices but also the prices of the vehicle-parts, insurance-cost have gone up manifold. Drivers pay out of their pockets for the fuel. Now driving a taxi on Kolkata roads has become very expensive. Poor people who earn livelihood driving taxis will not be able to survive if this continues here," he said.

"Today's strike is 100 per cent successful. We have sought an appointment with the Chief Minister regarding the matter and will decide our next step on her response," CITU veteran leader Shyamal Chakraborty said when asked about the future of their movement on behalf of taxi workers.

Since August, Left-backed trade unions have called for a strike ten times, including today's, demanding rise in the minimum fare from Rs 25 to Rs 35, with the fine of Rs 3,000 on drivers for passenger-refusals be slashed to Rs 100 and dropping of legal proceedings against 450 cab owners.

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