New Delhi: The crisis caused by the truckers' has heightened after the Delhi Police arrested OP Agarwal, the chairman of the All India Transporters' Welfare Association (AITWA).
The truckers, in retaliation, threatened to extend the strike for another three months if the government did not revoke a new service tax on freight booking agents.
All-India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) Secretary-General JM Saksena along with five others, was called in for questioning by the police.
"If our demand is not met immediately, we are willing to continue this strike for three months," said BN Dhumal, AIMTC president.
After yesterday's failed talks between the government and the AIMTC, the striking truckers refused further talks, apparently angered by the arrest of OP Agarwal by the Delhi Police under ESMA.
"We are willing to talk, but the use of police force against our peaceful agitation will only precipitate the situation," Saksena said.
Dhumal said if Agrawal was not released, the exemption given to essential services would be withdrawn from tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the government kept a close vigil on the situation developing out of the stoppage of inter-state movement of goods, particularly perishable commodities, which has led to prices rising by as much as 25-30 per cent.
"Cabinet Secretary BK Chaturvedi is regularly reviewing the situation with the ministries concerned," official sources said.
The strike has also affected industrial production due to disruption in raw material and component supplies and movement of finished goods out of factories, besides halving diesel sales by oil firms, which have in six days lost Rs 450 crore."
According to the control room set up here, the strike had a major effect in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Orissa, even as Chhattisgarh imposed state ESMA. Parts of Karnataka were also hit by the stir while the Tamil Nadu Lorry Owners' Federation decided not to support the strike.
"Tankers carrying fuel (petrol, diesel and LPG) are not participating in the strike," oil industry executives said.
There were no reports of shortage of milk and vegetables from anywhere in the country, but prices firmed up in anticipation of supply disruption.
"Delhi is receiving its quota of fruits and vegetables from Punjab. Today, a convoy of trucks carrying apples started from Himachal Pradesh to Delhi under police protection," an official at the control room said.
Dhumal said, "We request the government to understand that we are not against the service tax. Our opposition is to the transporting community being made responsible for collecting it. We request the government to change the modality of collection of the tax, we should be spared this responsibility."