Govt, operators harden stance


'Let govt slash sales tax if it is so concerned of fuel price hike'

There was no relief for the commuters as they faced another day of hardship with the private buses remaining off the roads for the second consecutive day in the state. Private bus operators, who are demanding fare hike following the Rs 5 hike in diesel prices, have called an indefinite strike to press their demand.

With the state government hardening its stance against any hike in the bus fares, angry bus operators asked the government why it was not making necessary cuts in the sales tax that it levies from the oil companies, "if the government is so concerned about the hike in diesel price".

"We have already told State Transport Minister (Madan Motra) that unless the bus fare is not hiked, we won't be able to withdraw the strike. If at all the government is concerned about the hike in diesel price, then they should cut the sales tax," said Sadhan Das, Secretary, Joint Council of Bus Syndicate.

The private bus operators said they understand the inconvenience caused to commuters, "but we are helpless as with the increase of Rs 5 per litre in diesel price, it was nearly impossible to run the buses".

The North Bengal Passenger Transport Owners' Co-ordination Committee, the apex body of 32 bus owners' associations, also continued with their strike. They ply around 5,000 buses. Pranab Mani of the committee said: "We were forced to call an indefinite strike because operational and maintenance costs are rising thanks to bad roads. The diesel price hike has only added to our woes."

Unfazed, Transport Minister on Tuesday threatened to withdraw subsidy the government gives to the private buses if they continue with their strike. He ordered that private buses have to pay parking fee if they are parked in government parking lot. Terming the bandh as 'illegal', Mitra, who was seen hopping from one government bus depot to another, said the striking bus owners would be liable if the government initiated stern action against them.

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