KOLKATA, 20 SEPT: With auto-rickshaw gas refilling stations running dry, commuters in the city were at the receiving end as auto drivers charged arbitrary fares from them due to unavailability of fuel.
On several busy routes, drivers today hiked the fare from Rs 3 to Rs 5 claiming they had to put up with long queue at refilling stations. Due to unavailability of fuel, the drivers, who usually run vehicle on a route 20 times a day, had to bring it down to 10-12 times and to compensate their loss, they charged extra from passengers. “Auto drivers are charging whimsical fares. There is no traffic. There are10 days left for Pujas and yet the fare has been hiked,” complained Mr Ankit Surana, a resident of Phoolbagan.
An auto-rickshaw driver of Ultadanga-Sovabazar route said that they are charging extra since it has become very difficult to get fuel. Out of the six refilling stations in North Kolkata region, four were running dry while distribution at two stations was at a very slow pace. The auto drivers had to wait for almost two to three hours to get their tank, of 20 kg capacity, filled. Also, since only two refilling stations were catering to such a large number of vehicles, auto drivers were not being given more than 10 kg of fuel at a time. Auto drivers were charging Rs 3-4 more than the usual fare on the Ultadanga-Sovabazar route.
Mr Tushar Kanti Sen, president of West Bengal Petroleum Dealers Association, said supply of fuel from Haldia to the refilling station is not regular and mired in several other problems. There is lack of adequate numbers of vehicles that transport gas from Haldia to the refilling stations. Moreover, due to the dilapidated road and heavy traffic at Kolaghat, the supply vehicles do not reach the refilling stations on time. Mr Sen said: “Despite several requests to release gas supply vehicles, police do not allow them during the time stipulated for no-entry. This also adds to delay. I will soon have a meeting with the police commissioner, Mr RK Pachnanda, and transport minister Mr Subrata Bakshi, to resolve the matter,” he said.
Earlier, the number of refilling stations was less compared to the number of vehicles. However, several stations have been constructed recently and number of refilling stations in Kolkata currently is 35. Mr Sen said that if supply of fuel to these stations is regularised, the problem of distribution would be solved. Also, it was seen that due to non-availability of fuel in Kolkata, pressure on refilling stations in Howrah has increased. Today an auto from Sonarpur (South 24-Parganas) had come to Howrah to refill his vehicle, Mr Sen said.