One union makes new demands, will take final call after talks with members

A day after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s ultimatum, private bus operators’ associations on Wednesday held talks with state Transport Department officials and agreed to run more buses in Kolkata from Thursday. However, one association placed new demands before the state government and said it will take a call on resuming buses after holding discussions with its members.

Banerjee had on Tuesday announced that the state government will take over private buses if they do not resume normal services. Her ultimatum came after the bus unions refused to budge from their demand of a fare hike citing rising fuel prices despite a Rs 27-crore subsidy announced by the state government earlier.

After meeting transport department officials, Pradip Narayan Bose, joint secretary of the West Bengal Bus and Minibus Owners’ Association, said, “Those who can run buses with old fares will do so from tomorrow (Thursday).

Some new proposals have come up from the state government in the meeting. Based on these proposals, we will submit our replies to the authority concerned.”

The general secretary of the Joint Council of Bus Syndicates, Tapan Banerjee, said, “We will hold talks with our members first before I comment on this. We have placed new demands before the government and awaiting a favourable response. We have come here today with the decision to run buses.”

Around 6,000 private buses ply in Kolkata. With buses staying off the road over a demand to hike fares, commuters were hassled and bus stops witnessed long queues. Operators had said the lockdown restriction on carrying capacity of buses (100 per cent seating capacity) and increasing fuel prices caused huge losses to them. To end the deadlock, the state government last week announced Rs 15,000 subsidy for each of the 6,000 private buses for three months, which failed to impress bus operators.

Meanwhile, private bus drivers and contractors protested at Nagerbazar area after one of the drivers died by suspected suicide. The man has been identified as Biswajit Baral, 30, driver of a 221-route bus.

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