Kolkata, Jan 3, 2009: Three buses were torched and several vehicles damaged in a rampage by Trinamool Congress-backed autorickshaw operators here today as the West Bengal government softened its stand saying it would either suspend or slowdown the crackdown on polluting three-wheelers.The buses were burnt in around Park Circus in south Kolkata as a large contingent of police stood by but could do little as the auto operators, protesting a ban by the Calcutta High Court on two-stroke autos from January 1, indulged in violence.
Hoodlums not only damaged and set ablaze the buses but also snatched cash and valuables from passengers and conductors of the buses during a 12-hour strike called by the Trinamool Congress-backed Auto Bachao Committee and the Progressive Taximen's Union.There are over 60,000 autos, mainly two-stroke, in the metropolis of which 25,000 to 30,000 have valid permits.Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, who sat on a night-long dharna near West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's Palm Avenue residence demanding release of the 18 persons arrested yesterday, withdrew it early this morning.
Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen told reporters that he would discuss suspension or slowing down of the police raids on autos with both Transport Minister Subhas Chakraborty and Police Commissioner Gautam Mohan Chakraborty.Chief Secretary Asok Mohan Chakraborty said the state government was bound to implement the high court order."What can we do? It is the verdict of high court. We have a sense of responsibility to auto operators. We will appeal to the high court," Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said.