Kolkata, Jun 30 (PTI) West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday warned private bus operators to resume normal services from Wednesday, failing which the state government will temporarily take over the buses and run the vehicles during the lockdown period, as per provisions of the Disaster Management Act.
City-based unions of private and mini buses have been adamant on a fare hike citing rising fuel prices, despite Rs 27 crore subsidy announced by the state government.
"I personally spoke to them (representatives of private bus unions). Not only me, they had discussions with the chief secretary, home secretary, transport minister and police more than once, after which it was decided that they will operate from July 1. But now, they are unwilling.
"Therefore, we have decided to follow the law which will take its own course as per the Disaster Management Act. The government will run the buses and if needed, we will employ drivers who work for private buses," Banerjee told reporters at the state secretariat.
The lockdown has been extended in West Bengal till July 31.
The chief minister reiterated that after a meeting with the unions, the state government had announced Rs 15,000 subsidy for each of the 6,000 private buses for three months.
"We do not support the regular diesel price hike by the Centre and that is why, we had announced the subsidy. I will request the unions of private buses to stop ego battles, this is not the time for bargaining… I hope they will keep their word or else we will be compelled to act," she said.
Banerjee said her government will announce a decision in this regard on July 3.
Meanwhile, Joint Council of Bus Syndicates general secretary Tapan Banerjee said private bus owners are incurring losses daily for running the vehicles.
"Under the given circumstances, the state government should think about the plight of private bus owners... Now, it is up to the ruling dispensation to take a call on what it will do about the problems being faced by us," he said.
All Bengal Bus Minibus Samannoy Samity general secretary Rahul Chatterjee said its members have been operating some buses in the city and districts since May 27, and the numbers have increased in June.
"We have been cooperating with the government despite losses," he said.
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