The All India Motor Transport Congress said it will initially stop movement of essential goods in north India from 8 December, before extending it to other parts of the country if the government does not address the concerns of farmers
Indian truckers threatened to strike indefinitely from 8 December in solidarity with farmers protesting against pro-market agricultural laws, stoking fears that the move may cripple the movement of goods, fuel shortages and possibly upend the nascent economic recovery.
The All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC), the country’s largest truckers’ body, on Wednesday said it will initially stop movement of essential goods in north India from 8 December, before extending it to other parts of the country if the government does not address the concerns of farmers.
Transporters will decide on shutting operations from 8 December, starting with Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, said Kultaran Singh Atwal, president of AIMTC, which represents more than 9.5 million truckers, around 5 million bus owners and other transporters across the country.
“If the government does not look into the farmer’s demand, then we will do a chakka jam and stop vehicles," he said.
The strike call by the transporters is likely to test the resolve of the Narendra Modi administration, which has ruled out reversing the farm laws although it has met farmers to allay their concerns.
Thousand of angry farmers from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have camped in Delhi and its suburbs demanding that the government repeal the laws that they claim will only benefit large corporates.
“The road transport fraternity of India extends its unstinted support to the agitation by farmers. Thousands of trucks carrying food, vegetables and other perishable and non-perishable items coming from Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir are impacted. We still support them as 65% of the trucks are engaged in carrying farm produce," AIMTC said in a statement.
Agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar and food and public distribution minister Piyush Goyal met farmer representatives on Tuesday, but the meeting remained inconclusive. The government has called for another round of discussions on Thursday.
The truckers warned of an acute shortage of essential items in the next few days if the conflict is not resolved. “It is the season of apples, which are being wasted. Potatoes, onions, and other fruits and vegetables, as well as other essential commodities such as medicines and milk, are also stuck, which is leading to a shortage in Delhi and in other northern states," the statement said.
“This looks like a wild threat at this point of time. It may not be easy to stop movement of goods. Truckers are already in a dire state due to covid," said S.P. Singh, senior fellow and coordinator at the Indian Foundation of Transport Research and Training.