Mumbai: The nationwide indefinite strike called by transporters received a mixed response on its first day, but the apex body of truckers said it would continue with its bandh call till it gets “concrete assurances” from the government on its demands.
The All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) core committee chairman Bal Malkit Singh said about 50-60 percent of the overall 93 lakh trucks, which are affiliated to the apex body are off the roads, and expressed confidence that more will join as the day progresses.
The strike seemed to be more effective in the financial capital and Maharashtra with a larger proportion of trucks staying off the roads starting from 6 AM when the bandh began.
“There are trucks which are on their way to dhabas, petrol pumps or yards where the drivers will go and park them during the strike,” Singh said. He pegged the daily loss to truckers at Rs 4,000 crore
He said the body, which had last-minute meetings with senior government functionaries, including Finance Minister Piyush Goyal, decided to continue with its strike as it did not get any concrete assurances on its demands.
Goyal suggested the formation of a committee to look into the demands, but did not offer anything substantial on the demands, Singh said, adding that principally, the body wants “concrete assurances” on its core demands.
Singh said no meetings are planned for the day and the body will wait to hear from the government before taking a call on its strike, which was first announced on 17 May.
Truckers’ key demands include a reduction in central and state taxes by getting diesel under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) so that price of the deregulated commodity can be reduced, he said.
Singh said truckers are also against the “flawed and non-transparent” toll collection system that favours road concessioners and alleged that the time and fuel loss goes up to Rs 1.5 trillion annually on account of it.
Truckers are also miffed at high insurance premia and want a reduction in third-party premium, exemption on third-party premia from GST, he said.
Apart from this, they are also pressing for exemptions and abolition in direct taxes, national permits for all buses and trucks and also doing away with the direct port delivery tendering system, he said.
The School Bus and Company Bus Owners Association of Maharashtra has also extended their support to the truckers strike. Over 8,000 buses in Mumbai and 40,000 buses across Maharashtra are affiliated to the body.
“All these buses will be off the roads today,” Anil Garg, association president had said adding that their call is only to show solidarity and will last for a day only.
AIMTC Secretary General Naveen Gupta said that the body decided to go on strike this morning as talks with Finance Minister Piyush Goyal which continued till 1.30 am today remained inconclusive as nothing concrete was being offered.
Gupta said, today the body is slated to meet ministry officials concerned and earlier, transport minister Nitin Gadkari had sought three months time.
“We are very open to look into all their issues and hope that better sense prevails,” a road ministry official had said yesterday.
Established in 1936, the All-India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) calls itself the apex body of transporters representing over 93 lakh truckers and around 50 lakh buses, tourist taxi and cab operators