Talks with truckers fail, more join stir
New Delhi, August 23
The strike entered its third day today. It has attracted massive response of truck operators from Delhi, parts of Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, while it has so far failed to make much impact in Bihar and the north-eastern states.
Lamenting over the “adamant” attitude of the government, the AIMTC stated that their strike would continue as the government had declined to withdraw the 10.2 per cent service tax imposed on truck operators, though it was claiming that the tax had been imposed on the goods transport agents only.
“Talking to reporters, AIMTC secretary-general J M Saksena said, “We have had two round of talks. As of now, the strike is on,” he said without giving any detail about what transpired at the meetings.
“I have nothing to state about what we discussed with Revenue Secretary Vineeta Rai. At this moment, we are not in a position to say anything,” he said.
Talks are likely to continue tomorrow as well, said the sources. After Delhi and Gujarat, some other state governments are likely to invoke the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) if the strike continued.
The government has called upon the truck operators to call off the strike since the service tax would not have to be paid by the operators. It has claimed that the indefinite strike of transporters and truckers has so far failed to have any adverse impact on the prices of commodities and vegetables.
Meanwhile, the government is trying to maintain the supply of vegetables and other essential commodities. “The arrival of trucks is normal. There is no effect of the strike on prices of essential items,” said Mr Rajinder Sharma, general secretary of the Chamber of Azadpur Traders Association.
After a holiday on Sunday, the business was as usual in the market, claimed traders.
“We are getting about 600 trucks of apples alone from Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir besides vegetables,” he said.
He, however, added that a prolonged strike could hit the supply of goods. “There is no problem at the moment.” The striking transporters claimed that only small trucks carrying goods were plying and the strike was “total” across the country. “We have allowed small trucks to operate,” said Mr R K Gulati, spokesperson for the AIMTC.
The AIMTC has allowed the truckers to transport essential items, though, like milk and water.
An AIMTC delegation also met Road Transport and Highways Minister T R Balu and CPM Politburo member Sitaram Yechury seeking their help in resolving the issue.
MUMBAI: Unlike states like Gujarat and the Delhi, which have invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act against the striking truckers, the Maharashtra Government is trying to solve the matter by holding talks with them.
Maharashtra’s Transport Minister Ashok Chavan is holding discussions with representatives of 16 bodies representing truckers, transporters and others in the trade, state government sources said. Transport operators have a number of grievances against the Maharashtra Government, which Mr Chavan hoped, may be resolved mutually.
However, sources here say the government has not given up on its options of introducing ESMA in Maharashtra in a big way against truckers.