Industry fears Rs.20-bn loss on first day of truckers’ strike (Roundup)

July 2nd, 2008 - 9:10 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 2 (IANS) The truckers’ strike to protest rising taxes and fuel costs will further increase inflation and has caused industry to lose Rs.20 billion Wednesday, the first day of the agitation, industry lobbies here said. Urging transporters to sort out the issue with the authorities and resume services, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) said the strike would push up inflation further.

“It will also result in large-scale disruption in industrial activity following the suspension of cargo handling and transportation activities,” it said.

The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) said with the movement of cargo and essential commodities including grains coming to virtual halt, the Indian economy lost about Rs.20 billion Wednesday.

More than four million heavy and light commercial vehicles went off the roads early Wednesday in protest against the multitude of taxes and increases in input costs, apart from the rise in retail fuel prices.

The strike began after talks with the government failed Tuesday night.

A representative of the truckers’ union met Minister for Highways and Road Transport T.R. Baalu again Wednesday morning, but no consensus emerged.

Despite several rounds of talks between the truckers and the government through the day, there was no breakthrough till 6 p.m.

The finance ministry has invited truckers to discuss the service tax issue and resolve the dispute, V. Sridhar, a member of the Central Board for Excise and Customs, told reporters here Wednesday.

“We are willing to give more concessions and exemptions needed to resolve the crisis,” he said, adding the issue of toll and service taxes was a minor point.

“Their demands are about procedural issues. The government is alive to their problems. We have asked for certain data from the truckers.”

“We will have another round of talks with the government,” D.K. Sharma, adviser to the All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC), told IANS.

“We have other concerns also relating to increased toll tax, service tax and other issues. We will continue with our agitation till our demands are met,” he said.

Sharma also charged the oil firms with forcing truckers to buy costlier branded diesel, but the state-owned Indian Oil Corp - the country’s largest transport fuel retailer - has said that the cheaper fuel was freely available.

Earlier, the price difference between branded and normal diesel was 50 paise per litre, which has gone up to Rs.2.25 a litre, the truckers said.

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