More than 50 lakh trucks continued to remain off roads around the country for the second day on Tuesday, crippling supplies of essential commodities, prices of which have begun rising.
The Centre has advised state governments to declare transport services an essential service and invoke the Essential Services Maintenance Act - or other legal instruments such as the National Security Act — to counter the strike, a surface transport ministry statement said.
State governments have also been asked to cancel permits and requisition trucks and lorries under relevant legal provisions.
"There is no report of adverse impact on supply of essential commodities across the country," the statement added.
The transporters appeared unfazed. "If it is true that the strike has had no impact, then why is the government so worried? We will stick to our demands," said Charan Singh Lohara, president of All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC).
The transporters are demanding a 10 per cent cut in diesel prices, slashing of tyre prices by 35 per cent, exemption from payment of service tax on gross freight, and deferred payment of loans. They also want the annual national permit fee lowered from Rs 3,500 from Rs 5,000 and toll collection on highways suspended for six months.
Traders at Delhi's Azadpur Mandi admitted that the strike had affected the movement of goods. Prices in Delhi remained steady, though in many other parts, like the wholesale Koyembedu market in Chennai, they had begun to rise.
In Chandigarh, Jujhar Singh Badheri, director of the grain market committee, said only about 50-60 trucks carrying vegetables reached the market on Monday, while none had arrived since Tuesday morning.
"Due to the limited supply, there has been a shortage of vegetables and prices of many vegetables have already risen," Badheri said, and added: "We will be out of stock in the next one or two days if the strike continues."