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Bus operators withdraw stir

By Our Special Correspondent

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, NOV. 24. Private bus operators withdrew their plan for a prolonged strike following a discussion their leaders had with the Transport Minister, N. Sakthan, here today.

Meanwhile, the Statewide dawn-to-dusk motor strike organised today by various unions in the private sector passed off peacefully.

No coercion

The strike was characterised by absolute absence of coercion, which is a novel experience in the State.

Though private buses all over the State participated in the strike, cars and two-wheelers freely plied along the roads. Even autorickshaws operated without any hindrance in the southern and central regions of the State. Among other things, the unions were demanding a reduction in fuel prices through cuts in the sales tax being levied by the State Government.

After the discussion with the leaders of the bus operators' unions, the Transport Minister, N. Sakthan, said he had promised to take up their demands with the Chief Minister and Finance Minister. The union leaders too told reporters that the Minister gave them a patient hearing and assured positive action on some of the key demands.

Memorandum

The memorandum submitted to the Government by the unions contained 11 demands. Apart from the demand for sales tax cuts on diesel and petrol, the main requirements of the bus operators are restrictions on giving permits for more bus services and a reduction in the extent of concession allowed on student fares. The bus operators want the student concession to be limited to 50 per cent of the normal fare.

The Minister told reporters that he had categorically declined to consider the demand for slashing the student concession. "I told them (the union leaders) that this is just not possible," Mr. Sakthan said.

All private buses, taxis and autorickshaws kept off the road in the Malabar region during the day. The organisers of the motor strike had exempted Pathanamthitta district so that Sabarimala pilgrims were not put to hardship.

Leaders of the Kerala State Bus Operators' Federation, the Kerala Bus Operators' Organisation and the Kerala State Transport Workers' Federation attended the meeting with the Transport Minister.

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