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Truckers’ defiant despite ESMA

india Updated: Jan 11, 2009 00:22 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
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Defiant truckers showed no signs of calling off their strike, six days into the agitation. A worried government has convened a meeting of state transport commissioners on Monday to thrash out a solution.

Prices of vegetables have gone up in recent days, but traders were hopeful of normal supplies in the next few days amid strong measures taken by state governments.

The government has declared transport services as an essential service under the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA). Truckers face the danger of losing their permits if they continue to remain off roads.

Five members of the All India Motor Transport Congress were detained by a Delhi Police team on

Saturday under the National Security Act, a day after they were taken into custody under ESMA.

"Wholesale prices of vegetables had gone up by Rs. four to five due to the strikes but since a large number of goods vehicles are now plying, supplies from nearby areas are coming on time. Things would further improve in a day or two,” said Jai Kishan Sahni, a trader at the Azadpur wholesale market.

The truckers have been demanding a series of measures including a Rs 10 per litre cut in diesel prices, unrestricted import of tyres, a single national permit, reduction in toll taxes, and deferred payment of vehicle loans.Road transport minister T.R. Baalu maintained the strike has had negligible impact, although prices of essential commodities have shot up.

“I would not want to talk tough with them (the striking truckers) I would only request them to resume services. I don’t have an iron hand,” Baalu said at a hurriedly convened press conference. The state transport commissioners’ meeting on Monday would discuss the next course of action. A senior government official in the transport department said: “The strike will break on its own.”

“Any price decision regarding price cut for diesel has to be taken by the highest authority and not me,” Baalu said. State governments have been asked to allow the free flow of goods across inter-state borders by allowing trucks to ply on weekly or fortnightly permits for the time being.

Baalu said the demands of agitating truckers have already been acceded to in July last year. “There is no room for further negotiations,” he added.