Taxi drivers shout slogans against the state government during a rally in Kolkata on Monday.  	-AFP
Taxi drivers shout slogans against the state government during a rally in Kolkata on Monday. -AFP

Kolkata : Ignoring an ultimatum by the West Bengal transport minister that the state government would take stern action, taxi operators kept cabs off the roads on Monday protesting the atrocities of the Kolkata police, causing immense hardships to commuters.

They organised a rally from Subodh Mullick Square to Esplanade and also staged a court arrest. They threatened to stop plying their vehicles if all the 22 taxi drivers, who were arrested by the police on Thursday for organising movement on the same demand, were not released immediately.

This was the second time taxis went off the roads within a span of a week. Last Thursday, taxi drivers resorted to a wild cat strike and set up road blockade disrupting traffic protesting police harassment. The police had arrested 22 taxi drivers and sent them to jail. The West Bengal transport department claimed to have identified at least 445 taxis that were taken off the road, in violation of their service contract.

West Bengal Transport Minister Madan Mitra has ordered that notices be issued and permits cancelled of all the 445 taxi owners. But the taxi drivers did not pay any heed to the action of transport department and organised the agitation again on Monday.

Anadi Shaw, a leader of the CPI(M)’s labour wing CITU, alleged that the police have been charging fine to the tune between Rs 3,000 to Rs 5000 from the taxi drivers for violating different traffic rules. This apart the policed is also giving non-bailable sections against taxi drivers for traffic violation, he said.

An official of the state transport department, however, said that the government has taken a strong view of unchecked taxi refusal cases in the city and directed the police to deal with such offences stringently. He said that to put pressure on the police taxi operators were now trying to launch movement to scale down the action.

“But our department will continue the action,” he said.

But as a result of the agitation, the commuters had a tough time throughout the day as the auto rickshaw operators had demanded exorbitant fare.

Ambar Mukherjee

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