Mrunal Manmay Dash

A state-wide strike by private bus operators began in Odisha on Friday, crippling the public transport system across the state.

Nearly 14,000 private buses went off road in the state as part of the agitation called by the private bus owners' association. The association launched its indefinite strike in protest against the location-accessible multimodal initiative (LAccMI) of the State government.

Following a stalemate between the Odisha Private Bus Owners Association and the state government, private buses stayed off roads in the State.

The Odisha private bus owners remained adamant on their earlier stand to go on an indefinite strike from October 20.

The private bus operators, who are protesting the State government's affordable transportation for people across the state under the location-accessible multimodal initiative (LAccMI), have called for an indefinite strike from 6 AM today.

Speaking to the media, Debendra Sahu, the secretary of the private bus owners’ association, said, "We stuck to our earlier decision on indefinite strike from 6 AM of October 20 as the discussion with the CMO on Thursday remained inconclusive.”

He further added that they had talks with the CMO on Thursday, but no written assurance was received regarding their demands.

Sahu also said the indefinite strike during Puja time is not intended to put people in trouble. “We were bound to do it against our will. For their inconvenience, we tender an apology to the commuters.”

As the Durga Puja celebrations are underway, people with travel plans to their hometowns and other places are facing a hard time due to the strike. A passenger to Balasore’s Soro waiting at the Netaji Bus Terminal in Cuttack said, “I knew there is a bus strike from today. But I need to go home. So I am waiting for a government bus to board. But it is nowhere to be seen.”

“The bus owners should not have gone to strike during puja. People like us are suffering to a great extent for this,” he added.

Similarly, passengers in Kendrapara experienced a harrowing time due to the strike. A family from Rajnagar on their way to a hospital in Cuttack were forced to reserve an auto rickshaw from Kendrapara after failing to get a government bus to Cuttack. Speaking to OTV a passenger said, "When the government knew that the Private bus owners are going on strike, it should have deployed enough govt buses for the passengers. The govt seems to be too insensitive to our plight." 

Meanwhile, the Odisha Transport Minister, Tukuni Sahu said, "The decision of the private bus owners' association is completely unilateral. We have called them for discussion again on October 26. People should not suffer and the bus owners should cooperate with us."

The minister termed the LAccMI bus services, which are being opposed by bus owners, as a people-friendly scheme and said it will continue.

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