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A day of hardship for commuters

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BY ANY MEANS: People make use of a mini-lorry for travelling as private buses went off the roads in the city on Friday. —
BY ANY MEANS: People make use of a mini-lorry for travelling as private buses went off the roads in the city on Friday. —

Staff Reporter

Additional services by KSRTC prove inadequate

KOCHI: With the private buses keeping off the roads on Friday, it was another day of hardship for the commuters in the city. Though the services of autorickshaws and taxis were available, the absence of private buses was a hard blow to the ordinary man, whose mainstay of transport is the private buses. This time it was the turn of the workers of private buses to strike work demanding hike in wages.

The strike was total, said Joy Joseph, convenor of the joint protest committee of private bus workers and general secretary of Private Bus Thozhilali Federation (AITUC). He said that their main demand was to implement the fair wage structure. The demand had been pending for over a decade, he said.

Drivers, conductors and the door checkers are expected to work for 8 hours a day, but they have to work for more than 16 hours daily without any additional wages. Conciliatory talks held by the Labour Department and the District Collector had failed to resolve the issue.

Nearly 1,500 private buses operating in the city and suburbs kept off the rods on the day. Though the Kerala State Road Transport Cooperation (KSRTC) operated nearly 50 additional services from Ernakulam, Aluva and Muvattupuzha, they were grossly inadequate. As the KSRTC does not operate city services in Ernakulam, the number of buses available for extra services too was limited, said District Transport Officer Jayarajan.

Private bus strike has become a routine affair, alleged Roy Thekkan, secretary, district consumer protection council. The recent bus fare hike has increased the income of bus operators by more than 30 per cent and a day’s strike won’t affect them, he said. He also criticised the laxity of the authorities in taking effective steps to meet the situation though the bus workers had given notice.

D.B.Binu, a consumer rights activist and leader of Human Rights Defence Forum, alleged that the authorities were not keen on correcting the anomalies in fare stage revision. The hike in bus fare had been the sole agenda of meetings convened by the authorities. Registered consumer associations were kept out of such meetings, he said.

He also alleged that a lobby of private bus operators and politicians was ignoring the interests of the common man. The woes of consumers were not being presented at the official meetings on fare revision and similar issues. It was against principles of natural justice, he said. The authorities had also failed in ensuring an efficient prepaid autorickshaw service which would be of immense help to people on occasions of bus strike, he pointed out.

Indefinite strike

The workers have decided to go on an indefinite strike if their demands are not met. The future plans will be decided at a meeting of the workers to be held on Monday, said the office-bearers of the joint protest committee.

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