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13 Dec 2017

Bagdogra Airport taxis, parking agent 'fleecing ' people

MANAS R BANNERJEE, SNS, BAGDOGRA. 12 DECEMBER: At a time when passengers and officer bearers associated with different organizations have been demanding development of infrastructure and basic amenities at the Bagdogra Airport, there were two contrasting pictures at north Bengal and Sikkim's only airport near Siliguri today. While a taxi driver was being praised for his honesty, others, including those responsible for collecting parking fees, were found fleecing passengers in earnest.
Quarrels between a taxi driver, who is not associated with the local syndicate, and the parking fee collectors appointed by a private agency there too are a common sight.
Virtually, several people, from car owners to drivers, have always argued and express unhappiness over the fee collectors' rude behavior and the demand for a whopping Rs 55 if a small car stays inside the airport premises or a litle more than five minutes.
The concerns here gained momentum especially after the Kolkata airport put in place a system, while the time limit for the cars there is at least 15 minutes.
On the other hand, a staff of the North Bengal State Transport Corporation (NBSTC) alleged that a group of transporters at the airport here are fleecing passengers by asking for exorbitant fares.
'Taxi drivers will start demanding Rs: 30O to Rs 500 from passengers, who want to reach Bihar More at Bagdogra nearby or Siliguri, even though the state bus leaves the Airport for Siliguri town," he said.
Sushanta Dey, meanwhile, won accolades today after he returned Rs 1.5 lakh to one Satish Kumar, a resident of Buland in Uttar Pradesh. Mr Kumar had accidentally left the cash as he traveled in his car yesterday.
"Satish Kumar hired my car for Rs 500 at 5.30 pm yesterday. I took him to Siliguri Junction and returned home at Buri Balason area and went to watch a night football match. It was only after I returned home at night that I noticed a bag in the back seat of the car. I decided to return it to police outpost without checking," Mr Dey said.
As Mr Kumar came looking for the taxi at the airport after he realized his blunder, police asked him why he did not hire from the pre-paid taxi booth controlled by the Siliguri Metropolitan Police at the airport.
"As Satish Kumar reached the police outpost today too, Sushanta came to report and hand over the bag," said Manab Singh, a police constable, on duty there today.
While such honesty exists on one hand, commoners have been saying they are not happy with transporters for over-charging them, both in the taxi fares and the parking fees.
"A person/driver cannot return within five minutes after dropping his/her passengers at the departure gate, given the traffic congestion that has become the order of the day at the airport. The passenger flow has increased over the years and more airlines have introduced their flights, but the space for the vehicles, especially on the Sunday rush, remains the same," a policeman said,
"Local taxi drivers here do not pay the parking fees. Though it was decided earlier that such drivers will pay at least Rs 10, the system was discontinued," he added_
" Six minnutes or six hours, the rate is the same. Being a collector of parking fees, I will not be able to answer your questions_ The airport authorities will be able to explain the present system better,"Asit Ghosh told this correspondent.
Airport Director RK Sahay could not be contacted for comment despite several attempts. (To be continued)

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