‘Trucker’s strike only to wriggle out of tax evasion cases’

July 3rd, 2008 - 6:46 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of P. Chidambaram

New Delhi, July 3 (IANS) As the truckers’ nationwide strike entered the second day Thursday, a transport monitoring agency said the protest was unwarranted and only a pressure tactic of many truck owners to wriggle out of tax evasion cases. “Many truck owners have evaded tax duties and notices were served to them. They have come up with frivolous demands to pressurise the government so that they can get away with cases against them,” said S.P. Singh, coordinator of the Indian Foundation of Transport Research and Training (IFTRE), the only agency of its kind in the country.

“There are over 10 major state bodies that have categorically announced their dissociation from the transport strike called by the All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC),” he said.

AIMTC claims to represent nearly 4.8 million truck and two million mini-truck operators.

According to Singh, the transporters from West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Karnatka, Kerala and Maharashtra have boycotted the strike.

Singh also accused industry lobbies of portraying an unrealistic picture of the situation in the transportation sector.

“It is not a fact that the industry lost Rs.20 billion owing to the truckers’ strike yesterday (July 2). A good number of trucks are operating on the roads and moving to their respective destinations,” Singh said.

The IFTRT Thursday wrote to Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and Transport Minister T.R. Baalu apprising them about the situation.

The strike to protest rising taxes, fuel costs and duty structure entered second day Thursday.

The trucker’s association was not called for a meeting by the government Thursday.

On the first day of the strike, the agitators twice met the transport ministry officials, besides holding discussions with the finance ministry.

In his meeting with AIMTC Wednesday, Baalu said that rolling back the hike in the toll tax would not be possible as the increase was affected through an act of parliament.

But the government Wednesday said it was willing to give more concessions and exemptions needed to resolve the crisis in the transport industry and added that the issue of toll and service taxes was a minor point.

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

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