Most private buses across West Bengal stayed off the roads for the second consecutive day today, affecting thousands of office-goers and commuters.

Though state-run buses plied, passengers found it difficult to board them because of over crowding in the absence of 37,000 private buses that carry a huge chunk of passengers.

Taxis and auto-rickshaws came to the rescue of many passengers and there was a heavy rush to avail of Metro and ferry services in the city.

Private bus operators went on an indefinite strike demanding a fare hike following increase in the prices of diesel by Rs. 5 per litre.

State Transport Minister Madan Mitra said, “If the private operators stick to their demand and refuse to ply buses for an indefinite period, the State government will take stringent action as per law.”

Mr Mitra had also said if the private operators could not ply buses at the existing fare structure, they should return their permits to the State government.

“We will distribute those permits to the new operators within 72 hours,” he said.

The four-member Group of Ministers on Transport could not decide on a fare hike yesterday in the absence of Commerce Minister Partha Chatterjee, who is one of the members.

The striking bus operators refused to withdraw their strike expressing dissatisfaction over the transport minister’s stand on their demand.