New Delhi: Indian transporters have called for an indefinite strike, which will take four million trucks off Indian roads next month, weaken diesel demand and possibly hit supply of goods and commodities, a union leader said.
“From 2July, there will be no vehicle on the road. We have taken that decision,” said Charan Singh Lohara, president of the All India Motor Transport Congress, which represents transporters all over the country.
If the threatened stoppage takes place, Indian drivers will join a series of protests in Asia and Europe after crude oil’s record run forced governments and fuel retailers to cut subsidies and raise prices.
A similar week-long strike in August 2004 pulled monthly diesel sales down 9.3% from a year earlier, while annual growth in industrial output slowed to 7.9% from 8.4% in the previous month as the strike disrupted shipments.
Lohara said union members would protest against recent increases in diesel prices, as well as hikes in road tolls and high taxes. “If we raise our charges, we will lose customers to the railways. If we don’t, we will make a loss,” Lohara told Reuters.
The Indian government raised the retail price of petrol and diesel by about 10% this month but most states cut local taxes to soften the impact on consumers. Protests and strikes called by political opponents of the government broke out across the country but soon ran out of steam.
S.P. Singh, senior fellow at the Indian Foundation of Transport Research and Training, said cargo freight rates had gone up 10-15% after the government raised fuel prices.But he said the increase was much more than what was required to offset the higher cost of diesel.
“The diesel price hike is not the core issue in flaring up inflation. It is the high-handed action of transporters that is raising costs,” he said.
Low state-set prices of petrol, diesel, cooking gas and kerosene have encouraged higher demand in Asia’s third-largest oil consumer, where domestic sales rose 7% in 2007-08, the fastest growth in eight years, analysts say.