Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Flyers stuck in pre-paid cab stir

Kolkata: Anger brewing among metered-taxi drivers over delay in reimbursement of fares at the airport pre-paid counter erupted on Monday morning when they went on a flash strike for 45 minutes during one of the busiest hours. Several hundred passengers, particularly senior citizens who are not adept at using smartphones to book app cabs and foreigners without access to internet on arrival, were left stranded till police stepped in.
“My parents kept waiting in queue after buying the pre-paid tickets, but there were no taxis. The men running the booth had no information about the absence of vehicles, but a woman officer told us that a section of drivers had called a strike at the airport. Finally, after half an hour of waiting, cops brought in some taxis and my parents could get home,” said Sudeshna Dutta, a resident of Lake Gardens, whose elderly parents had flown in from Delhi on Monday.

Agitating cabbies said payment has been irregular, with a dedicated counter for disbursal of pre-paid payment to drivers — operated by the Progressive Taximen’s Union — often staying shut. Drivers rued the counter was supposed to open at 8am, but on most days, they opened only at 9.30am.

“Lakhs are collected in pre-paid fares before the trips. The counterfoil handed to the driver at the end of the trip needs to be reimbursed from the counter when the taxi returns. But the counter functions erratically. It is supposed to open at 8am but seldom opens before 9.30am and shuts down after clearing the dues of around 10-12 taxi drivers. It reopens around 1-1.30pm for an hour or less,” said Raju Singh, a taxi driver.
“On Monday, we waited for the counter to open since 8am and sat on a dharna after no one showed up till 9.30am. How can we work if we don’t get paid?” he asked.

Another driver said that on several occasions, out of four or five vouchers produced by a cabbie, only two are encashed. “The problem started about a year ago. If this persists, it will snowball into a bigger crisis. The union needs to clear the dues within a couple of weeks,” Singh said.
20/08/19 Tamaghna Banerjee & Subhro Niyogi/Times of India
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