Indian truckers deny move to call off nationwide strike

Tuesday, 22 April 2003, 07:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: Indian truck operators Tuesday denied any move to call off the nine-day-old nationwide strike that has crippled the country's delivery network and said the protests would continue till all their demands were met.

The indignant truck operators claimed that the strike had been intensified with oil tankers, transporting petrol and diesel, and lorries, or small trucks, joining hands with the striking truckers in some states.

"The strike is continuing successfully in all parts of the country," said J.M. Saxena, secretary general of the All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC), the largest union of truck operators in the country.

The strike, which began on April 14, has taken three million trucks off the roads and paralysed the country's freight delivery network, triggering a sharp rise in the prices of food products and paralysing the industrial sector.

According to industry estimates, the strike is costing the government and businesses hundreds of millions of rupees a day.

"The government is spreading misinformation through the media that we are on the verge of calling off the stir. This is absolutely incorrect. We will not call off the strike until all our demands are addressed," Saxena told IANS.

Referring to reports that some truck operators have called off the strike in states like West Bengal and Orissa, the union leader said: "Nearly 99.5 percent of truckers are on strike all across the country.

"Some splinter groups may have decided to resume operations in select states but that is not going to have any impact on the strike."

Saxena said while oil tankers have joined the truckers' agitation in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, lorry operators in Delhi have decided to take their vehicles off the road to express their support.

The truckers, who met several senior political leaders Monday to garner support for their protest, have asked for the intervention of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to resolve the crisis.

The truckers' main demands include withdrawal of a 50 paise per litre hike in diesel prices and exclusion of transporters from the ambit of value added tax, a multi-point taxation system likely to be introduced by many states on June 1.

Other demands include withdrawal of an order pertaining to scrapping of 15-year-old vehicles and computerisation of driving licences and registration books.

Source: IANS
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