The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Truckers set Friday deadline

New Delhi, April 16: The government today invited striking transporters to discuss their grievances and clarified that most of their demands are being examined by the ministries concerned and that a solution will be soon found.

However, the striking unions today threatened to stop the transport of essential commodities, too, from Friday.

J.M. Saksena, secretary-general of the All India Motor Transport Congress, said: “Till now, we have exempted vegetables, milk and gas from the purview of the strike. If our demands are not conceded by April 18, then from April 19 these items shall also be brought under the purview of the strike.”

Union minister of road transport and highways B.C. Khanduri today asked the All India Motor Transport Congress to meet the secretary on Thursday and sort out the issues before a final meeting with the minister.

Admitting that the transporters’ strike has resulted in prices of fruits and vegetables going up in some states, Khanduri said he has not yet examined the option of advising the state governments to initiate ESMA.

The transport panel said the strike could cost businesses Rs 20,000 crore a day while truckers were expected to lose Rs 1,500 crore daily.

“We are hopeful that they will understand our point of view as we have addressed their demands and come to the table to sort out the problems or any misunderstandings,” Khanduri added.

Even as the transporters’ strike entered the third day, the government said there was no cause for alarm.

“The impact of the strike is marginal and supplies have not been affected anywhere in the country,” he said.

Explaining the government’s initiative and its views on each of the nine demands made by the transport panel, Khanduri said VAT was to replace the varying sales tax system across states and would not apply to truckers since they do not fall under the service provider category and do not pay sales tax.

Reacting to the government’s appeal to call off the strike, Saksena said: “We are willing to call off the strike provided the government gives a written undertaking that action would be taken on our demands. The transport panel has 27 lakh vehicles registered with them.”

According to a daily status report prepared by the ministry of road transport, the strike has had no impact in Bihar, Haryana, Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Sikkim and Manipur. “Essential commodities are adequately available and till now there has been no escalation in prices,” the report added.

Prices in Mumbai, Punjab and Chandigarh have gone up by around 20 per cent. The strike did not have much impact in Delhi, but has resulted in a 15 per cent surge in prices in Goa, Assam and Mizoram, the report said.

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