Several app cab and yellow taxi drivers affiliated to the Taxi and App Cab Drivers’ Union supported by the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) have gone off the roads for 12 hours in Kolkata today in protest against the enhanced traffic violation fines which came into effect in the last week of January this year. The strike, which will last until 6.00 pm today, is likely to heavily affect the mid-week commuter rush in the city, making it a difficult day for regular cab users. The union claims it issued advance warning of the strike over the past week through protest demonstrations at Park Circus seven-point crossing, at Lenin’s statue at Dharmatala, and at Girish Park. That apart, besides writing to the Transport Minister in Charge Firhad Hakim.
Union leaders have complained that taxi fares have remained static for the last four years, despite rising diesel prices. Moreover, app cabs must pay a hefty commission to the app cab service providers, which further affects their earnings. Given the existing situation, the drivers feel the enhanced traffic fines are the last straw. Among the fines that have increased significantly is the penalty for overstepping the signal line, which will now be Rs 500 instead of Rs 100. And the fine for not carrying valid pollution under control (PUC) and fitness certificates or registration papers will be Rs 10,000.
Nawalkishore Srivastav, a leader of the AITUC-supported union, said the union had been forced to call for the strike to highlight the drastic nature of the new list of traffic penalties. “The government should take immediate steps to address this issue,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kolkata Traffic Police has reported a steep drop in prosecutions in the immediate aftermath of the enhances fines being implemented in the city from January 26. In the week between January 28 and February 4, the rate of prosecutions has gone down by as much as 70 percent, particularly for relatively minor offences such as overstepping the signal line, according to traffic police sources. The sources added that this could be a result of drivers taking more care to not break traffic rules in view of the steep penalties.