STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE
Balurghat, 6 January
Daily commuters of three main towns in South Dinajpur district ~ Balurghat, Buniadpur and Gangarampur ~ have
faced a hard time today during the 24-hour state-wide transport strike called
by five unions of private
and minibus associations
jointly, demanding immediate increase of fares
following the recent
price hike of diesel and petrol. 
Taking advantage of the private buses staying off the roads, auto-rickshaw operators as well as private cab operators kept overcharging them.
They gave in due to the absence of any alternative.
According to the residents of Balurghat, the auto-rickshaw and the taxi operators made them shell out almost double the
regular fare during the shutdown.
“They took advantage
of our helplessness. We
gave in meekly, as there was
no alternative mode
of transport,” said a Balurghat resident, Shyamal Joardar.
Others have taken
police and local administration
to task for remaining passive spectators with the
auto-rickshaw and taxi
operators fleecing
passengers with impunity under their noses.
“The administration and police must act in such
situations, otherwise we would continue coughing
up fares, exorbitant by all accounts, during such strikes,” said a local High School teacher, Sajal Mazumdar.
The director of North Bengal State Transport Corporation (NBSTC), Biplab Khan, said extra buses had been pressed into service to deal with the situation.
“However, the measure seems to have proved inadequate to mitigate the commuters’ inconveniences,” he added.
However, a resident of Khaspur in the Balurghat police station area, Tripti Sarkar, alleged that no NBSTC bus had plied in her locality during the
strike.
“We submitted to the auto-rickshaw operators fleecing us and the administration and police were found cringing before them,” she said.