Mumbai: Nearly 7.5 million trucks may to stay off from the road on 20 September as part of a strike by transporters to protest the recent increase in diesel prices.

They threatened a longer strike from 20 October if the government did not roll back the hike.

Freight rates have increased by 15% this week as a result of the hike, according to Bal Malkit Singh, president of the All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC), a group of truckers, transporters and passenger vehicle operators.

AIMTC represents about 7.5 million truckers and 4 million bus and tourist vehicle operators.

“It is estimated that the country will lose Rs2,500 crore due to the one-day strike," Singh said. “But we are left with no option."

Transporters are open to reducing freight rates if the government rolls back the price hike, he added.

The government was prepared for such contingencies and all essential supplies would be maintained and monitored by the ministry, Road transport and highways secretary A.K. Upadhyay told reporters on Monday.

The government increased diesel prices by Rs5 a litre on Thursday, revised the excise rates on petroleum products and put a cap of six cylinders a year per household on subsidized cooking gas—decisions the market has cheered but which have been criticised by some opposition parties and consumers.

The road transport industry will not be able to absorb the diesel price hike and central and state governments should reduce excise, custom duty and value-added tax on diesel, which constitute about half of the diesel cost, he said.

AIMTC and other transporters’ associations, including the All-India Transport Welfare Association, have been demanding relaxations in the carriage by road rules that were notified by the government in February.

The rules require all common carriers with a minimum net worth of Rs5 lakh to be registered under a designated authority. The rules also establish a liability regime for transporters in case of damage or losses to commodities.

“We are giving 30 days for the government to take a positive decision. We will review the government’s decision, if any, before resorting to an indefinite strike," AIMTC’s Singh said. He added that 5% of the vehicles will ply to ferry essential commodities.

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