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Transporters’ stir: ESMA invoked in Delhi, Gujarat
Tribune News Service And Agencies

Trucks parked at the cotton market in Hubli
Trucks parked at the cotton market in Hubli on Saturday as the Tanker and Lorry Association members participate in a strike to protest against the imposition of 10 per cent service tax. — PTI photo

New Delhi, August 22
The nationwide indefinite strike of truck operators entered the second day today due to the deadlock in talks between the Finance Ministry and truck operators’ associations.

Meanwhile, the Delhi and Gujarat Governments invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA), and the police arrested some truck operators in the Capital today for disrupting the supply of goods.

Talking to the reporters here, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram appealed to truck operators to call off their strike, assuring them that the government had no intention to levy service tax on them.

“I have repeatedly said that the government has no intention to levy service tax on truck operators or truck owners. This is the legal position,” he said.

Commenting on the Finance Minister’s statement, Mr R.K. Gulati, general secretary, All India Transporters Welfare Association, said the Finance Minister was misleading the nation. All truck operators will have to pay 10.2 per cent service tax, as most of them were also working as booking agents.

The All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC), the parent body of transporters, claimed that the strike was total. “The strike has been 100 per cent so far, and will be intensified if the government fails to meet our demands,” said AIMTC president B.N. Dhumal.

He said the transporters did not make any bookings for the second day in support of the strike to press for the withdrawal of 10.2 per cent service tax imposed on goods booking companies.

Mr Dhumal said that though milk and water had been kept out of the purview of the strike, this position was only till tomorrow. He claimed that about 40 lakh vehicles throughout the country continued to be off road.

Expressing concern over the deadlock between the government and truckers’ associations, various industrial and trade associations have appealed to the government and transporters to make efforts to end the strike. They claimed that the prices of vegetables and fruits had begun to rise in the national capital region and other neighbouring states despite claims of the government that it would maintain the supply of essential commodities.

In a statement issued here today, Assocham president Mahendra K Sanghi said exporters had started complaining that export deliveries had run into difficulties ever since the transporters went on strike.

“If the strike was prolonged, the exporters would lose orders, which could lead to massive foreign exchange loss to the exchequer. Therefore, it is necessary to bring the transporters and the authorities concerned on the negotiation table to settle the dispute amicably,” Mr Sanghi said.

He said drought and flood in different parts of the country, coupled with rising inflation, had already led to increase in prices of essential commodities.

“If efforts to end the strike are delayed, it would create shortage of essential commodities and lead to panic among the public,” he said.

MUMBAI: Though the movement of goods into Mumbai has come to a complete halt due to the truckers’ strike, the prices of essential commodities continue to hold steady, according to sources.

Agricultural products are still coming into Mumbai through the Railways and private non-commercial vehicles, according to sources in the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC), which oversees the trade in the city.

The Bombay Goods Transport Association said that the strike is total in the city. “No truck is entering into the city,” says Mahendra Arya, president of the BGTA.

DEHRA DUN: The Uttaranchal Government has chalked out contingency plans to meet the challenge arising out of truckers’ strike in the state, which entered the second day today, officials said.

Chief Secretary R.S. Tolia said the government would ensure that truckers who are not participating in the strike do not face any difficulties.

LUCKNOW: The Uttar Pradesh government has made all necessary arrangements to ensure the availability of essential commodities in the state in the light of the transporters, strike, Chief Secretary V.K. Mittal today said.

The truck strike, which began yesterday, had no affect in Banda, Saharanpur, Meerut, Gonda Baharaich, Gorakhpur, Jhansi, Basti, Azamgarh, Mau, Ballia and Lucknow districts, he claimed.

CHENNAI: Normal movement of essential commodities, including vegetables, milk and petroleum products, were not affected in any part of Tamil Nadu, as the truckers’ strike entered the second day today.

Enquiries revealed that though lorry bookings in Tamil Nadu remained normal, there were no bookings to other states.

However, Mr Rajinder Singh, president of the Chennai Goods Transport Association, claimed that the strike was total.

PATNA: Markets in Bihar have been badly affected and prices of vegetables and other essential commodities have sky-rocketed as booking agents in the state joined the nationwide strike by truckers to protest the government’s decision to impose service tax and hike in diesel prices.
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