No response from government, truckers to continue strike (Roundup)

January 7th, 2009 - 8:49 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 7 (IANS) With no government response coming forth to their agitation, Indian truckers vowed to continue their three-day old nation wide strike even as prices of essential commodities started rising in several parts of the country.”We vow to continue our nationwide strike till our demands are met,” Charan Singh Lohara, the president of the truckers’ apex All India Motor Transport Congress, told IANS Wednesday.

Lohara said his organisation has received support to continue the nationwide strike from various traders’ forum across the country. “Like us, traders too feel cheated and harassed due to the indifferent approach of the government,” he said.

The AIMTC had called for a similar strike in June last year, but withdrew the call after the government accepted their demands.

Responding to the government’s threat to truckers, Lohara said: “Let the government revoke our licences. Every sector has been given a bailout package. Why not the transport sector?”

He added that the strike has severely affected the movement of goods and services.

“The prices of commodities have gone up. Even the essential goods are not reaching mandis. We do not want that situation. The government has slipped from its commitment of the agreement it had reached with us. It should invite us for talks and our demands should be met,” said Lohara.

The government has already threatened to invoke the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA), if needed, against the strikers.

Over six million trucks went off the roads across India in the early hours of Monday, demanding that diesel and tyre prices be lowered. The truckers’ strike has triggered fears of shortfall of essential commodities.

However, the truckers have till now maintained that the supply of essential commodities would not disrupted. “From our side, we have not asked truckers to refuse transportation of essential commodities,” he said.

Brahm Yadav, chairman of the Delhi Agriculture Marketing Board, said Wednesday prices have been affected because of the truckers’ strike.

“We have seen an increase in light motor vehicle trucks bringing goods at the mandi (wholesale market), so there hasn’t been a drastic jump in vegetable prices,” he said.

Yadav, however, added that if the strike persisted for long, the prices are likely to shoot up.

In Lucknow, the stir has jacked up prices of essential commodities even as the Uttar Pradesh Truck Operators’ Federation (UPTOF) said its members would maintain the supply of essential goods.

While the rates of fruits and vegetables have gone up 20-35 percent, the wholesale market is also witnessing price hike, vendors said. Prices of pulses, which are largely brought to Uttar Pradesh from Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, have also gone up.

In West Bengal, nearly 10 percent of the striking truckers returned to roads Wednesday. “While yesterday (Tuesday) nearly 70 percent of 325,000 trucks moving within the state remained off the road, 60 percent joined the strike today (Wednesday),” Satyajit Majumdar, general secretary of Federation of West Bengal Truck Operators’ Association (FWBTOA), told IANS in Kokata.

However, he claimed that the strike was total in North Bengal, with no loading of goods was reported from any part of the region.

Meanwhile, A. Sakthivel, president and chairman of the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO), a leading exporters’ organisation, said the country would lose about Rs.10 billion daily due to the stir.

Over 70 percent of freight in India moves by road, and truckers have benefited from a booming economy that requires the transport of steel and cement for construction.

But transport companies have been hit in recent months due to a slowdown in the economy with interest rates on vehicle loans going up.

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