Taxi strike threat in peak tourist season

The Telegraph

OUR CORRESPONDENT

Gangtok, Sept. 29: The All Sikkim Taxi Drivers’ Association has threatened an indefinite strike from September 30 in the middle of the tourist season to protest the state government’s decision to outsource the sale of travel tickets to local co-operative societies.

To take share cabs from any taxi stand in Sikkim, one has to pay up at a ticket counter at that stand. The tickets have names of the starting point and the destination, the taxi number and total amount paid. The association used to run these counters.

“The strike is to protest the decision to outsource the selling of tickets to the co-operative societies. We feel it is not justified,” said president of the committee, Tinku Adhikari.

The state’s decision was announced in August. Adhikari said the committee members met chief minister Pawan Chamling on the first week of September and submitted a memorandum urging him to roll back the decision. “The chief minister had assured us that he would issue an order agreeing to our demand. It has been more than two weeks but there has been no response. On September 24, members of the committee agreed to take part in the strike. We will not lift it till our demand is fulfiled,” Adhikari said.

The committee, formed this year, has 58 taxi drivers’ bodies under it and around 20,000 taxis which run in Sikkim, Siliguri, Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong. All these taxis are likely to stay off the roads if no settlement emerges tomorrow.

Gangtok has 10 taxi stands and the association earns around Rs 3,000-4,000 daily through ticket sales. “For each ticket sold, Rs 10 goes to the association fund that is used for paying staff salary and welfare of the drivers,” Adhikari said.

The rest of the money, the driver gets for that trip.

Adhikari said now the Rs 10 from the sale of each ticket would go to the local co-operative society.

In Sikkim, the Puja tourist season is from September to October. The Travel Agents’ Association of Sikkim has appealed to the taxi association to call off the strike. “It is peak season. We appeal to the association to settle the matter through talks,” said its president Satish Bardewa.

The contract of selling the tickets are to be given to the co-operative societies registered with the department of co- operation.

“It is a good decision as the societies are formed by unemployed people and this will give them a chance to earn,” said the president of Singtam New Generation Co-operative society, Tar Tshering Lepcha.

Adhikari said disciplinary action, including disqualification of membership, will be taken if drivers do not follow the strike call.

“The bus, truck and tanker drivers have said they will join us after two days if the decision is not rolled back.”

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