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Zemoadjarian Drivers Strike High Prices at Car Station in Batumi

22.07.2008
The minibus drivers went on strike in Batumi Car Station. They are protesting against the administration’s demand to increase the tax on the drivers. In particular, the administration demands that the minibus tickets are sold only in the booking-office. They also want that 20 % of the ticket price entered into the Car Station’s budget. The minibus drivers have never been required to pay such kinds of taxes until now.

Mostly those minibuses that arrive and depart from Batumi Car Station come from Zemoadjara village. The drivers tell that if the new tax is established, the ticket price will be substantially increased. Consequently, the village inhabitants will not be able to buy the tickets at all.

“The villagers are short of money. Prices are so expensive and incomes so low that they can not even afford to pay the ticket price at the current time. And now they want to increase the ticket price?! The money the peasants receive from selling carrots and greens in the city is not enough even for covering their travel expenses. If they demanded 10 % we could agree on negotiations but we are demanded 20 %. – which is far too much,” stated Ramaz Chkhubadze, a driver from the village Jalabashvili, Keda District.

The villagers also protest against the increase of ticket price: “The ticket price is gradually increasing. How can we pay? As a consequence, the peasants will not be able to come that often to Batumi.”

The drivers state that they can not meet the administration’s demand and will be forced to leave the car station. The drivers are free to enter the station so far. However, if the administration demands to pay the new tax, they will leave the station. The village minibus controllers have stopped working and the ticket booking offices is now closed.

Zaur Solomonidze, the head of car station board of trustees considers that the drivers’ protest is baseless: “The car station is not a charity organization and we can not grant privileges to the drivers always. No one thanked us for the benefits we provided them.  The moment the protection of legality and the drivers rebelled.”

The Batumi Car Station is a joint stock company. The government possessed 31% of company shares. The head of Adjara Autonomous Republic issued a decree on May 8, 2008 and sold its share on the basis of direct selling to the Ltd. Portuna Station. The Ltd. proprietor is Iakob Eligula. The drivers’ conditions deteriorated ever since the new investor has arrived on the scene.

Maka Malakmadze, Batumi  

 

 

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