Truck operators call off weeklong strike

Saturday, 28 August 2004, 07:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: Fears of shortage of commodities and an industrial shutdown eased Saturday as Indian truck operators called off their week-old nationwide strike after talks with the government over a new tax proposal.

Some three million trucks had stayed off the roads since Aug 21 as truckers protested against the imposition of a new 10 percent service tax they claimed would badly hit their profitability.

"The strike has been called off after detailed discussions with the government," said B.N. Dhumal, president of All India Motor Transport Congress, the country's largest truckers' union.

"The government has assured us that it will look into the issue of service tax sympathetically so that truck operators' businesses don't get affected," Dhumal told IANS.

"A joint committee will be set up to look into the issue of service tax and other problems faced by the truckers. The committee will have three members from the truckers side and six government representatives."

The truckers had earlier ignored repeated government appeals to end the strike even as the industrial sector was bracing for heavy losses as the transportation of goods and raw materials had come to a complete halt.

Trucks account for 60 percent of goods transport within the country. Essential commodities like milk and medicines had been excluded from the strike.

The strike causes an estimated loss of 46 billion a day -- 6 billion to the trucking community and 40 billion to the government and industry.

"We have asked all our members to start services with immediate effect. I think situation will become completely normal by Monday," said Dhumal.

Vineeta Rai, revenue secretary in the finance ministry, said the truckers decided to call off their strike after reaching an agreement with the government over the service tax issue.

Source: IANS
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