Tourism in Goa was severely affected today after thousands of taxis went off the roads to protest against the entry of a private taxi operator in the trade.
Tourist taxi operators blocked traffic at several places including Mandovi bridge in Panaji and Siolim bridge in North Goa, 20 kms away from here.
The district administration and police, which rushed to the spot, could not control the situation as the protestors demanded intervention of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar.
Around 7,000 taxis including black and white cabs went on strike today to oppose the permission granted by the state government for a private taxi operator company and also doubling up of Russian tourists as taxi drivers running parallel service.
"We want the state government not to allow private company (ies) to enter the market. The CM should give us the assurance without which we are not going to withdraw the strike," Vinayak Nasnodkar, General Secretary, North Goa Tourist taxi association said as the taxi operators continued blocking the bridges.
He said the strike will continue even tomorrow if government refuses to accept their demand.
"Its a peaceful protest today.. we are not responsible if it turns violent tomorrow," he warned.
The strike by taxi operators, who are the lifeline of tourism trade in Goa, have kept several tourists stranded in their hotels.
Nasnodkar said the strike is 100 per cent successful and some tourist operators who did not join the strike were 'convinced' to keep their vehicle off the road.
State Transport Director Arun Desai claimed the taxi operators never contacted him with their demands.
"There was a meeting of taxi operators on January 31 with the government and they were supposed to meet me on February 3. I am still waiting for them," he said.
The director said many of the issues concerning taxi business have been settled by the government which includes moratorium on rent-a-bike, rent-a-cab and even long pending demand of seeking proportionate tax payment if car is converted from taxi into a private vehicle.
"The state government has also notified subsidy scheme for the purchase of new taxi wherein the buyer is paid subsidy of 25 per cent or Rs 2.5 lakh whichever is maximum," he said.
Desai said the state transport authority (STA) meeting scheduled tomorrow will discuss taxi operators’ demand for point to point fare system.