A nationwide stir by truck operators is threatening to push up prices of food and commodities again across the country. Tens of thousands of trucks stayed off the roads on Monday after talks with officials to cut taxes and diesel prices broke down.
The truck operators are demanding a Rs10 a litre reduction in diesel prices, slashing tyre prices by 35 per cent and exemption of transporters from the 3.09 per cent service tax on gross freight from customers.
All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC), the apex body of transporters and goods booking agents, has claimed that over 600,000 trucks have stopped plying on the road following the strike call.
AIMTC has also demanded reduction in annual national permit fee by Rs3,500 from Rs5,000 and suspension of toll on highways for six months due to global economic slowdown.
Truck operators in Kerala and Bihar, however, are not joining the stir for their own reasons.
The Bihar Motor Transporters said they would not join the strike, saying the strike would affect the development of the state, where roads, bridges and culverts are being constructed at a great pace.
"The government is giving concessions and bailout packages to so many industries. Why not us, when we are struggling to repay loans with high fuel prices, high prices of tyres and numerous taxes," said Charan Singh Lohara, president of the AIMTC.
Transporters across the country have been hit by a slowing economy, higher interest rates on vehicle loans and greater competition from the railways.
With around 200,000 transport companies and over 6 million trucks operating in the organised transport sector, over 70 per cent of freight in India moves by road.