Transport strike keeps around 93 lakhs trucks off roads
Mumbai :Half of around 93 lakh trucks remained off the roads while buses plied as usual in most parts of the country on the first day of the transport strike called by All Indian Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC). The authorities warned that prices of essential goods would rise if the strike continues beyond Sunday. The AIMTC called for the nationwide strike on Thursday after negotiations with the central government — transport and finance ministries — failed on Thursday night. The transporters want relief from rising costs sparked by increase in diesel prices, toll charges, third party insurance and national permits for passenger vehicles. They are also demanding that fuel be brought under the GST. Friday being the first day of the strike, most states did not report any shortages of essential goods even though the wholesale markets reported marginal reduction of daily arrivals. “The arrival of fruits and vegetables in the market was slightly less than yesterday. This was mainly because the trucks already carrying goods were not stopped and they arrived till early this morning,” said a trader at Asia’s biggest wholesale market in Azadpur. Transport of fruits and vegetables from Haryana, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Himachal, the major supplier states during the monsoon months to the National Capital Region (NCR) centred on Delhi, was stalled to a large extent. “We are closely monitoring the situation. But, as of now, Delhi has not been affected by the strike,” said a Delhi transport department official. Haryana transport minister Krishan Panwar said he had not received reports of any services getting hit by the strike even as truck unions claimed full participation. In several states such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab, there was modest participation of truck unions in the strike. AIMTC president S?K?Mittal, however, said the response was “good” and the strike will gain momentum in coming days. “While private buses remained unaffected, trucks are not being allowed to move across the city Friday afternoon onwards,” said KS Atwal, AIMTC chairman, adding vehicles carrying essential goods will operate. “As per our information from 75 trunk routes the response has not been huge. To me, it was not more than 40% participation,” said S P Singh, director of the Indian Foundation of Transport Research and Training. In Bihar, builders feared the strike will lead to a rise in prices of construction material, which has already gone up because of a court ban on sand mining in the state. In Uttar Pradesh, traders said the prices will rise once the stocks with local traders start drying up. Madhya Pradesh’s principal secretary Malay Shrivastava said the effect of the strike had been minimal and was hopeful of an early resolution. In Maharashtra, where even private bus unions supported the strike, there was some impact on school buses while the majority of the trucks remained off the roads. “About 90% of school buses were off the roads. Only the buses owned by schools were playing,” said Anil Garg, leader of the School Bus Owners Association. Maharashtra’s transport commissioner Shekhar Channe said: “The supply of essential commodities is normal. We are closely monitoring the situation and district level committees have been formed to tackle the situation.” In Dehradun, public transport was affected as private buses, including those on contract with schools, autorickshaws and taxis participated in the strike. “We understand that because of our strike, people had to face problems. But for us, it was necessary to make the administration pay attention to our valid demands,” said president of the Dehradun city-bus association, Vijaywardhan Dandriyal.