New Delhi: The Centre on Staurday enlisted the services of striking truckers’ rival union to break the logjam that has pushed prices of essentials higher, even as more states invoked ESMA to arrest those disrupting goods movement.
The government, which on Friday said it will ply 15-20 lakh trucks and let private vehicles carry goods without permit, called a meeting with representatives of All India Confederation of Goods Vehicles Owners’ Associations (ACOGOA), which claims command over 40 lakh trucks across the country.
“We have invited representatives of ACOGOA for a meeting,” Transport Ministry Joint Secretary S K Dash said, without elaborating the agenda.
The ACOGOA is the rival union of All India Motor Transport Congress, whose members have been on strike since Sunday midnight demanding lower diesel prices, duty-free import of tyres and exemption from service tax, among others.
The strike has sent prices of essential commodities higher, while states initiated action against truckers. Madhya Pradesh became the seventh state to invoke the Essential Services Maintenance Act.
Emerging from the meeting, ACOGOA vice-president Chittranjan Dass said: “We are not participating in the truckers strike.”
Asked what was the meeting about, he said: “We discussed our own issues... we requested the government to abolish the import duty on radial tyres.”
“They (govt) have assured us of a reduction in diesel prices,” he said, but did not divulge the specifics of the expected price cuts.
ACOGOA President Channa Reddy, who also attended the meeting said the association member have been transporting goods wherever there are loads.
Reacting to the development, All India Motor Transport Congress vice-president Amolak Singh Bhatia said it was a move by the government was indulging in a face saving exercise.
“The government wants to reduce diesel prices but wants to give credit to ACOGOA instead of AIMTC,” he said.
“The government may be trying to create an impression that truckers’ strike has been called off through an agreement with ACOGOA,” Bhatia apprehended.
Meanwhile, the AIMTC was searching for direction as the union’s top leadership had either been arrested or gone into hiding. The West Bengal chapter of the union said it would meet on today to decide the further course of action.
Another truckers’ body, which is also participating in the strike, All India Transport Welfare Association President Ramesh Agarwal refused to recognise the existence of ACOGOA and said the strike will continue.
“We will continue with the strike and we will not hold any talks with the government till AIMTC President and other arrested members are released,” he said, adding they were not aware how many of their members have been arrested so far.
“The government is in panic and it is entirely responsible for the ongoing strike,” he added.
The strike entered the sixth day today even as Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh invoked ESMA to let private vehicles ferry goods without permits as also to enable impounding of vehicles.