Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Taxi strike leaves hundreds headed for hills stranded

Siliguri, Aug. 28: Hundreds of people headed for the hills were stranded today after the Siliguri Taxi Owners’ Association pulled more than 200 vehicles off the roads to protest against the absence of taxi stands and parking spaces in Darjeeling and Kurseong.
The taxi owners also blamed police of high-handedness.
However, what began as an indefinite strike was later withdrawn following a meeting with Darjeeling district superintendent of police Rajesh Subarno, who agreed to look into the problem.
Taxis will ply as normal from tomorrow.
“We don’t have any stand in the two hill towns to park our vehicles or designated stops from where we can pick up passengers,” association secretary Amal Khawas said in the morning. “So the drivers are forced to pick up passengers on the way back, and when they do that, policemen often catch them and impose fines.”
Later in the day, the police chief called a meeting with the taxi owners to find a way to end the impasse.
“He promised us two stoppages at Chowk Bazar and at Laden La Road in Darjeeling. He has called another meeting on September 8 to discuss the other problems. So we have decided to postpone the strike for now,” Khawas said.
Subarno said the permission was temporary.
“A final decision will be taken in the next meeting,” the police chief added.
The strike left hundreds of tourists and commuters stranded in Siliguri.
Bimal Gurung, a resident of Ghoom, was at the Siliguri bus terminus this morning, desperately trying to board a bus to his hometown.
“I was here on leave and missed my office today as the buses were few and far between and crowded beyond their capacity,” Gurung said. “I found many people, desperate to board the bus, climb to the roof while a few others hung on to the ladder at the back.”