With the six-day truckers’ strike causing a sharp dip in stocks of essential commodities, the state administration on Saturday initiated a special move to involve the railways and transport workers to restore supplies to the city markets.
Chief secretary S.N. Roy has urged the general managers of Eastern and South Eastern Railways to make special arrangements to reach commodities to their destinations, while transport minister Subhas Chakraborty has decided to seek help from transport workers to restore supply to the markets.
The move comes in the wake of depleting stocks of fish, eggs, onion, mustard oil and pulses in the city markets and their prices spiralling further during the day. Three major fish markets — Patipukur, Howrah and Barasat — which used to receive regular supplies from Andhra Pradesh, were almost dry on Saturday. Fish vendors, who have been storing fish in ice containers, said their stocks were almost exhausted. The supply of eggs, from Tamil Nadu, has dropped further, too.
Government officials said the transport minister — who is also the president of West Bengal Road Transport Workers’ Federation, the Citu-controlled apex body of transport workers — took the decision after the truckers failed to respond to his plea to call off the strike.
According to sources, Chakraborty’s move will be fully backed by the state administration, with chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee giving the green signal. Home secretary A.K. Deb said transport workers would be provided protection and other assistance to restore supplies in the markets.
“Everyone has a right to observe a strike to realise his or her demands. The transporters, too, have gone on a strike in support of their demands. However, we feel that a six-day strike is enough to register any protest or or highlight any demand. We cannot sit idle if they intend to carry it on indefinitely. We expect them to restore normal supplies by Monday. If the situation does not improve after Monday, transport employees will do the needful to maintain regular supplies in the markets. Three transporters’ organisations have already promised to resume work within a couple of days,” Chakraborty said.
The minister held meetings with the leaders of the transport workers’ federation on Friday and Saturday to chalk out a blue-print for his proposed move. Initially, about 600 trucks stuffed with various items, stranded in Burrabazar and other wholesale markets, will be unpacked. The consignment will then be distributed to various retail markets through small and medium goods carriers.
In the second phase, nearly 3,000 loaded trucks, which are presently garaged at different points across the state, will be brought to the city and the goods distributed to different outlets.