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Truck strike could spark price rise

Trucks parked along Bombay Road on Monday. Picture by Pradip Sanyal

Posta: Nearly 300,000 trucks across Bengal remained off the roads on Monday, marking the start of an indefinite strike against rising fuel price and third-party insurance premium.

Supply of fish, vegetables and fruits could be hit, triggering a price rise, if the strike continues for another 48 hours, city wholesalers and retailers said on Monday.

The supply of vegetables such as onions, chillies, cauliflower, cabbage and tomatoes is largely dependent on other states, including Maharashtra and Karnakataka, around this time of the year.

The bulk of the supply reaches Calcutta in trucks. "If a truck owner is left with Rs 3,000-4,000 at the end of a Calcutta-Mumbai-Calcutta trip, what's the point in plying trucks?" Subhas Chandra Bose, secretary, Federation of West Bengal Truck Operators' Association, asked.

"Fuel prices have gone up. Premium for third-party insurance has increased by Rs 13,000 to Rs 14,000... so has the salary of drivers and workers," he said. "We will continue with the strike unless a solution is reached."

On Monday, rows of trucks remained parked across parts of Posta, Burrabazar, Dunlop, Sodepur, and along NH2 and Durgapur Expressway even as transport bosses tried to find a way to break the deadlock.

Truck operators have been offered a chance to meet chief minister Mamata Banerjee, an official at Nabanna said.

Some trucks plied across parts of Garden Reach and Metiabruz, though.

"We hope the impasse ends soon," a transport official said. "We have enough supplies. The truck operators had met the chief minister once when bus and taxi fares were being revised. They can meet her again to discuss the matter."

Apart from vegetables and fruits, the biggest concern is fish. The annual demand in Bengal is 1.9 million tonnes.

Despite being among the top coastal states in fish production, Bengal has to depend on Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu for fish supplies.

Calcutta needs 70-75 truckloads of rohu and katla from Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Odisha daily.

"The consumption of fish has gone up following a slump in the meat market because of the rotten meat scare. If the supply is hit, we will face a huge problem," a fish dealer in Sealdah said.

Truck operators said they had raised the matter of cops demanding bribes during their meetings with the government. "The chief secretary had assured us that civic volunteers won't stop trucks for money. But nothing hasn't changed," `Bose said.

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