Centre explores options as truckers’ strike enters seventh day

January 11th, 2009 - 2:30 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 11 (IANS) The nationwide strike by transporters continued for the seventh day Sunday despite several states using provisions of law to term it illegal even as Union Surface Transport Minister T.R. Baalu called a meeting with his state-level counterparts here Monday to find ways to end the impasse.The central government once again said it was willing to hold talks with the protesters to find a solution but the All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC), which called the agitation, made it clear that no parleys were possible until their leaders were let off by authorities.

At least five of the union’s leaders were arrested under the provisions of the Essential Services Maintenance Act, that was invoked by several states including Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, as also the National Security Act.

Those arrested included AIMTC president Charan Singh Lohara and its secretary S. Venugopal, who had told IANS Friday that no talks were possible unless every member of his union was released.

“We will not go for talks with the government until our members are freed and freed unconditionally,” said Vinish Khanna, the joint secretary of the union, the apex body of transporters.

“We will continue our strike,” he said Sunday, adding an estimated six million trucks have been off the roads since Monday.

The truckers were also unimpressed by Petroleum Minister Murli Deora’s statement Saturday that the government was looking at a Rs.3 per litre cut in diesel prices.

The AIMTC is demanding a reduction of at least Rs.10 a litre in prices of diesel, a 35 percent cut in prices of tyres and a uniform value-added tax across the states.

The truck operators have been on a nationwide strike since Monday that has not only disrupted interstate movement of goods, including those meant for exports, but also sent prices of fruits and vegetables spiralling.

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