Panaji, Jan 19 (IANS) Even as tourists faced hardships at major transit points in Goa, the tourist taxi drivers in the state on Friday extended their day-long strike by one more day.
Even though the state government declined to accede to the demands of the striking cabbies, two Goa ministers joining the protesting taxi operators in solidarity put more pressure on the government.
Nearly 3,000-odd taxis stayed off the roads in Goa from early Friday morning. As a result, the tourists alighting or travelling to the Dabolim International Airport and various bus and railway stations in the state faced tremendous hardship.
“Now private vehicles are charging more than taxis. For a distance of 30km, we have paid as much as Rs 3,000 for a ride to the airport,” said Ankush Jain, a tourist, who was travelling back to Delhi after a brief holiday in Goa.
The one-day strike, which will continue through Saturday, has been called by tourist taxi associations in North Goa and South Goa districts, protesting the implementation of speed governors on tourist taxis and harassment by Transport Department and police officials.
Speaking to reporters, North Goa Tourist Taxi Association President Vinayak Nanoskar said that strike would continue on Saturday because the government had failed to five any assurance to them.
“We have no concrete assurance from the government of Goa. We have no option but to continue the strike,” Nanoskar said, after more than 1,000 taxi drivers staged a protest meet at the Azad Maidan in the state capital.
Two Ministers in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition government — Town and Country Planning Minister Vijai Sardesai and Rural Development Minister Jayesh Salgaonkar — and opposition leader Chandrakant Kavlekar also expressed solidarity with the striking taxi operators.
“We have to think about tourists…we can have alternative facilities. But taxi owners who are striking are our own people. We should talk to them and resolve issues. I am in agreement with demands with taxi owners,” Sardesai told reporters.
Even as the district administration in North Goa imposed Section 144 to deter the striking taxi operators, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar said that some of the demands made by the taxi operators, like scrapping of speed governors, were unrealistic, because the decision to outfit taxis with speed governors was based on a direction by the Supreme Court of India.
“Speed governor is a law, I can’t change it. No fitness certificate will be issued (to taxis) if there is no speed governor after February 24,” Parrikar said.
The Chief Minister also said that he would not “go after” the striking taxi drivers and that the Essential Services and Maintenance Act (ESMA) was invoked only to deter the striking cabbies from indulging in violence.
“ESMA was invoked so that some one does not do anything untoward and if I need, I can force some of them to ply. That is a power, but that does not mean I will use it. That power can be used against those who violate law and those who go for violence. But, it doesn’t mean that I am going to go after them,” he said.
Meanwhile, Goa Tourism Development Corporation Chairman and BJP MLA Nilesh Cabral said the Corporation was mulling starting an app-based taxi service, which would work as an umbrella service or cab operator.