State transport buses torched as Govt. cracks down on old vehicles in Kolkata

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Kolkaka, Aug.1 (ANI): Several State buses were torched, as the vehicles owners reportedly damaged the vehicles to protest against the West Bengal Government's crackdown against the 15-year-old vehicles on the streets of Kolkata which began here on Saturday.

Most of the vehicles owners decided not to take out any vehicle more than 15-year-old on Saturday.

Residents of Kolkata, meanwhile, faced a lot of trouble to find public transport on Saturday, as only a few vehicles were noticed plying on the streets.

Krishna Das Roy, a resident of Kolkata, said though people were suffering because of lack of vehicles but the decision to ban old vehicles was a welcome move.

"We are facing a lot of trouble as there are very few buses on the road because of High Court ruling. I have been waiting here for a very long time. Let's see when the bus comes, said Amit Sribastva, a local resident on a bus stop.

Auto rickshaw drivers went on rampage in Kolkata, and violence was reported in Tollygunje area.

A large number of security forces have been deployed on the streets.

On Friday, the West Bengal Government was all geared up to phase out all old vehicles from Saturday following the Calcutta High Court order to ban all transport vehicles older than 15 years from plying on the roads in the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA) area.

The KMDA officials stated that buses, trucks, taxis and auto-rickshaws running since 1993 would be taken off the city roads as per the court order.

During interaction with media, the State Transport Secretary Sumantra Chowdhury on Friday stated that as per the High Court's order, all buses, mini-buses, taxis, trucks and auto-rickshaws older than 15 years would be phased out from Saturday. If any such vehicle was found plying on the road, it would be confiscated.

"We have spoken to all the transport unions not to run these vehicles any more," said Chowdhary.

Assuring that the Administration would try not to harass passengers while confiscating the vehicles, Chowdhury said that the Municipal Commissioner and the city's Police Commissioner had been asked to look after the law and order situation.

He informed that State Government-run buses would also come under the purview of the order, adding that fear of a strike cannot hold back the Government from implementing Court orders.

On Friday, the Supreme Court declined to suspend a Calcutta High Court order, which directed the West Bengal Government to phase out all commercial vehicles older than 15 years from the metropolis to put a curb pollution.

A Bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice P. Sathasivam refused to stay the July 2008 verdict of the High Court.

The High Court had ordered the West Bengal Government to phase out 15-year-old commercial vehicles from the municipal limits of Kolkata within a year.

The deadline ended Thursday and city transporters, who oppose the order, gave a call to observe a strike from Saturday (Aug.1).

In 2008 (July 18), the High Court had passed an order asking the State Government to ban all public vehicles like buses, mini buses and lorries which had crossed 15 years from registration.

The State Government has decided to execute the High Court order, which was opposed by the transport operators' 19 organisations.

Kolkata has 6,500-odd buses and mini-buses, out of which around 2,830 are over 15 years old.

Nearly 225,000 trucks and tankers across West Bengal will go off the roads on July 31 in protest against the state government's decision to phase out 15-year-old commercial goods vehicles.

The decision for the strike was taken by Federation of West Bengal Truck Operators' Associations at its meeting here today.

Meanwhile, an apex court Bench comprising Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice P. Sathasivam, will hear the special leave petition filed by these transporters associations on August 4. (ANI)

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