Mitra refuses bus fare hike, warns autorickshaw drivers

In order to counter the demand for a fare hike by bus associations and curb the violation of rules by auto-rickshaw drivers, transport minister Madan Mitra said 1,000 taxis would hit the roads on January 1 and 900 buses would be provided by the state government by March 31.

Brushing aside any possibility of a fare hike he said, "People who are claiming that they are running buses at losses are lying. I challenge them to take me along with the media and I will show them that buses are still making profit."

Mitra also gave a seven-day ultimatum to auto-rickshaw drivers, beginning January 1.

"If they don't mend their ways, there would be massive raids from January 8. People have been complaining autos of overcharging and overloading. The state government will not tolerate any hooliganism, whichever union the driver might be affiliated to," he said. He also said that autorickshaws, especially on routes like Ballugunge-Behala, Gariahat-8B bus stand and Ultadanga-Salt Lake were guilty of cutting routes and charging more.

"The traffic department has been instructed to fine these auto drivers up to Rs 5,000," he said, adding that if the auto drivers still didn't follow rules, state would introduce small four wheelers in different areas of the city, as an alternative to autos. "These vehicles- ace magic, Iris and Geo- are ready and about 4,000 would be seen plying if autos don't follow rules. These vehicles can seat five persons and are a lot more comfortable than autos," he said.

Talking about the helicopter service from Behala to Sagar Islands, he said it was a huge hit. "Going by the nature of demands, there would be similar helicopter services to Haldia, Burdwan, Durgapur and Asansol," he said. Mitra also said that various frontline hospitals had expressed their interest in availing helicopter services. "All the big names have said they want to start helicopter services. I am in talks with them. Very soon, specialist doctors will be able to fly to remote areas to treat patients," he said.

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