Kolkata taxis go on indefinite strike, commuters harried

Kolkata: Commuters were left stranded and harried Thursday as Kolkata's taxis stayed off the roads again after their unions called an indefinite strike to press for a fare hike and to protest "police excesses".

This is the eighth taxi strike in the city since August.

To add to the woes of the commuters, transport workers affiliated to eight central trade unions, including the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), Indian National Trade Union Congress and All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), have called a transport strike Friday to express solidarity with the cabbies.

Thursday's strike called by CITU and AITUC resulted in hundreds of cabbies pulling their vehicles off the roads.

Lengthy queues were seen in front of auto-rickshaw and cycle-rickshaw stands while buses plied at full capacity.

Private car operators made a killing as travellers and tourists had no option but to pay a hefty fare even for small distances.

Tourists made a beeline for the new private taxi services launched in the city earlier this month.

The heat and humidity compelled many commuters to opt for air-conditioned buses despite their comparatively higher fares.

Among others, cab unions also put forth their demand to drop legal proceedings against 450 taxis.

According to CITU leader and former minister Anadi Sahu, no taxis will ply unless the state government gives in to their demands.

He said: "The taxi fare was hiked in 2012... that was the last raise. Since then, petrol price has been hiked 13 times but the taxi fare has remained unchanged. This has put the taxi drivers in a crisis."

Taxi drivers have pulled out their vehicles from the city roads on seven earlier occasions in less than a month by calling wildcat strikes or protest walks as part of their movement against alleged police "excesses".

At the centre of the dispute is the government decision to increase the fine for passenger refusal from Rs.100 to Rs.3,000 to combat repeated complaints of refusals.

The government in August arrested 22 drivers for vandalism as they damaged taxis which did not heed their call and continued plying. They were released on bail after spending four days in jail.

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