The government cracked the whip on striking truckers on Friday, arresting 15 office-bearers and the president of the All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC), the apex body spearheading the agitation, under the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA).
To discipline the 60,000 striking truckers, who had paralysed essential commodities movements since Sunday, the government also impounded vehicles under the ESMA.
Minutes before he was arrested, AIMTC president Charan Singh Lohara said, “Our strike is continuing as there has been no initiative from the government to solve our issues.”
The truckers demanded that diesel be brought under the declared goods category which could make it cheaper, unrestricted import of tyres, a single national permit and reduction in toll taxes, among others.
Road transport secretary Brahm Dutt said, “The demands of truckers are not just... they can’t coerce the government by resorting to agitation of this nature.”
Earlier, Home Minister P Chidambaram said, “The road transport secretary has said we are talking to the states. We will have to take the states with us.”
Following signals from the Centre, Delhi, Maharashtra, Goa, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Rajasthan invoked the ESMA on Friday.
Meanwhile, a Delhi-based advocate, Sunder Khatri, filed a public interest petition in the Supreme Court on Friday for declaring the strike as “illegal”. The petition will be heard on Monday.