Free Press Journal

Taxis again off Kolkata streets


Kolkata: Inconveniencing thousands of commuters, taxis stayed off the roads here for the second consecutive day Tuesday of the agitation by drivers protesting police excesses.

Hundreds of cabbies gathered at the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court where 21 drivers arrested and jailed last week for vandalism were produced.

All the drivers were released on bail against a bond amount of Rs.500 each.

Amid jubilation, the drivers then took out a procession demanding the withdrawal of police cases and hefty fines imposed for violation of no-refusal issues.

With taxis staying away from the roads, it was another harrowing day for commuters, as Metro trains were packed and serpentine queues seen in auto-rickshaw and cycle-rickshaw stands.

A day earlier, hundreds of cab drivers took out a protest walk on the streets, responding to a call by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) labour arm Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), and participated in a law violation programme decrying the “plethora of cases” lodged by police and imposition of hefty fines for violation of no-refusal rules.

Meanwhile, State Transport Minister Madan Mitra Tuesday said strict action will be taken against cabbies who indulge in vandalism.

“If there is any vandalism, then cases will be lodged against the perpetrators under non-bailable sections. Police has been deployed at every crossing to monitor the situation,” he said.

Last week, taxi drivers resorted to flash strikes twice that stumped commuters and took the administration and police by surprise. Later, 22 drivers were arrested.

Mitra has asked the cab drivers to join a meeting Wednesday to discuss their grievances with the state government.

The agitators said they were being charged around Rs.3,000-5,000 as penalty for refusing passengers and on carrying even small articles by passengers.