New Delhi: The nationwide indefinite strike called by truckers entered the second day on Tuesday with unions disregarding the government’s threat to invoke the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) if needed against the strikers.
"We will continue our nationwide strike until our demands are met," said Charan Singh Lohara, the president of All-India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC), the apex body of truckers.
Truckers went on strike from midnight Monday, a day after talks with the government over their demands for reducing prices of diesel and tyres failed. Owners of LPG and petroleum tankers have joined the strike.
AIMTC has maintained that their strike would not disrupt supply of basic commodities.
However, an official at Delhi's Azadpur Mandi, one of the biggest wholesale markets in Asia, said the trucker's strike has affected the movement of goods and services. "We have not been able to transport fruits and vegetables to northern states," said Balbir Tyagi, a wholesale agent at Azadpur Mandi.
"We have told truckers to ensure that supplies of vegetables, fruits and other essential goods are not affected," AIMTC general secretary S. Venugopal told IANS.
Over six million trucks went off roads across India since the early hours Monday, triggering fears that there would be a shortfall of essential commodities, leading to a price hike across the board.
Terming the strike as "irrational and irresponsible", transport secretary Brahm Dutt Monday had also threatened to cancel the permits of truckers, if the strike continued. He said the government's stimulus packages would help even the transport sector.
Reacting to this, Lohara said if the government cancelled their permits, truckers would not be responsible for any situation arising from it.
AIMTC's demands include a Rs 10 reduction in the price of diesel and rationalisation of tyre prices following the meltdown.
"The government has given economic support to several industries. But it has not given a thought towards the problems faced by the transport industry in recession. We also want a bailout package," AIMTC president Lohara said.
"We never wanted such a situation. We have tried our best to sort out the issue with the government. But the government does not seem to be interested in our demands," added Venugopal.
The near-4,000 truck operators associations are dissatisfied with the diesel price cut of Rs.2 per litre announced last month.
The government had earlier assured the AIMTC it would look into the oil price issue. "The price of aviation turbine fuel (ATF) has gone down to Rs.42 per litre. This government is giving step-motherly treatment to the transport industry, which is the lifeline of the country," AIMTC's Lohara said.