Truckers vow to continue strike (Roundup)

January 6th, 2009 - 9:21 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 6 (IANS) Striking truckers Tuesday accused the government of indifference and vowed to continue their agitation, even as a leading exporters’ organisation said the country would lose about Rs.10 billion daily on account of the stir.”The government has slipped from its commitment of the agreement it had reached with us. Our demands were not disputed by the government at any point of time,” All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) president Charan Singh Lohara said in a statement Tuesday evening.

“The government has given economic support to several industries. But it has not given a thought to the problems faced by the transport industry in recession. We also want a bailout package,” Lohara said.

“We never wanted such a situation. We have tried our best to sort out the issue with the government. But the government does not seem to be interested in our demands,” AIMTC general secretary S. Venugopal said.

AIMTC is the apex organisation of transporters.

Truckers went on strike from midnight Monday, a day after talks with the government over their demands for reducing prices of diesel and tyres failed.

Over six million trucks went off the roads across India since the early hours Monday, triggering fears that there would be a shortfall of essential commodities, leading to a price hike across the board.

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

A premier exporters’ organisation Tuesday also said the Indian economy could lose Rs.10 billion (Rs.1,000 crore) daily on account of the indefinite nationwide truckers’ strike.

“Everyday, goods worth about Rs.1,000 crore are transported across India and this will get hit because of the strike,” said A. Sakthivel, president and chairman of the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO), the umbrella forum of all exporters organisations.

But AIMTC has maintained that the truckers’ strike would not disrupt supply of basic commodities.

“We have told truckers to ensure that supplies of vegetables, fruits and other essential goods are not affected,” Venugopal told IANS.

However, traders at Delhi’s Azadpur Mandi, one of the biggest wholesale markets in Asia, said the strike has affected the movement of goods and services. “We have not been able to transport fruits and vegetables to northern states,” said Balbir Tyagi, a wholesale agent at Azadpur Mandi.

In Chandigarh, Jujhar Singh Badheri, director of the grain market committee, said only about 50-60 trucks carrying vegetables reached the market Monday, while none arrived since Tuesday morning.

“Due to the limited supply, there has been a shortage of vegetables and prices of many vegetables have already risen,” Badheri said, and added: “We will be out of stock in the next one or two days if the strike continues.”

About 70 percent of trucks within West Bengal remained off the roads while none of the 15,000 trucks that leave the state daily, moved Tuesday.

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