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Section of taxi drivers in Kolkata go on flash strike

Kolkata: A section of taxi drivers in central Kolkata today went on a flash strike and allegedly resorted to acts of vandalism, even as formal taxi unions distanced themselves from it.

The taxi drivers in the Esplanade area of the city, without any prior notice, suddenly declared that they were on strike alleging "misbehaviour and torture" by traffic police personnel.

Some of the drivers abruptly went on a strike and urged fellow taxi drivers to join them. After they refused to do so, a section of them broke window panes of their taxis, police said.

"There was a mild lathicharge to disperse the crowd and 20 taxi drivers have been arrested," an official in the Kolkata
Police said.

Meanwhile, the government and trade union traded barbs over the incident and resorted to blame game.

While both state Transport Minister Madan Mitra and affiliated taxi unions have condemned the sudden strike, Mitra alleged it was a handiwork of CITU and AITUC to embarrass the state government.

"This is a handiwork of the CITU and AITUC. We will not tolerate such vandalism. Some of these taxi drivers were protesting since FIRs were lodged against a section of drivers who were booked for criminal offences and for misbehaviour with the passengers. They even broke window panes of the taxis when some drivers didn't agree with them," said Mitra.

"We will not tolerate goondaism by some taxi drivers."

Police have been asked to take action against the culprits. If they have any complaints they can come through proper channel for redressal, but going on a sudden strike to blackmail the administration is not the way," he said.

At some places, passengers were forced to get down from the vehicles. "The state transport department has pressed 300 additional buses into service for Howrah and Sealdah stations and for the Airport to tackle the rush," Mitra added.

Bengal Taxi Association President, Bimal Guha condemned the strike and said some drivers were trying to "malign" the affiliated taxi unions by such "irresponsible acts". "Some people are trying to malign the affiliated taxi unions by such irresponsible behaviour. We have no relation with this strike or these taxi drivers. We condemn the rampage by the taxi drivers," said Guha.

CITU state president, Shyamal Chakraborty refuted Mitra's accusations and alleged that some of the taxi drivers who went on rampage and resorted to violence were members of the Trinamool Congress-backed Progressive Taxi Men's Union (PTMU). "There was no official strike call and trying to blame CITU for this is wrong.

Even some PTMU members, whom the transport minister leads, were involved in today's sudden strike. They have only embarrassed their own leader. "The transport minister should understand the grievances of taxi drivers that they are regularly harassed by the traffic police and try to solve the issue," Chakraborty claimed.

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