Mumbai / New Delhi: More than four million Indian truckers, who haul a majority of the nation’s goods, began a strike on Monday, demanding the government reduce fuel prices and waive toll charges for six months.
The drivers want the government to cut the price of diesel by Rs10 a litre, S. Venugopal, secretary general of the All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC), said by phone. Truckers also want an exemption from service tax, Charan Singh Lohara, president of AIMTC, had said on 26 December.
The strike by the truckers across the country may cause shortages and hamper the transportation of food and manufactured products. The truckers decided on the strike after talks with the government failed, Venugopal said.
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Meanwhile, the government on Monday threatened to cancel permits of the striking truckers and separately asked the states to ensure supply of essential commodities to the public.
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Accusing the transporters of shifting their stance and terming their wish list as “unreasonable and unfair”, transport secretary Brahm Dutt told reporters in New Delhi that “if the strike continues, law of the land will take its course. Permits of the trucks can be cancelled”.
According to the Indian Foundation of Transport Research and Training, a New Delhi-based agency that does research on road transport, the strike hasn’t affected the movement of goods. It is gathering information from 40 industrial centres countrywide to assess the strike’s impact, it said in an email.
Drivers play cards atop a truck in Jalandhar, Punjab, on Monday. Trucks kept off roads as part of an AIMTC strike. / PTI
The government will take steps to ensure that essential supplies reach the common man, Dutt said, without specifying what action it’s considering.
Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Maharashtra and Haryana have been partially affected, while Kerala, Bihar and the north-eastern states, remained unaffected, he added.
India had cut diesel prices by Rs2 a litre on 6 December.
(PTI contributed to this story.)