Truckers on Wednesday launched a nationwide indefinite strike to protest increased highway toll tax and duty structure on diesel that immediately hit trade and industry, with potential to soon choke food supplies.
Two rounds of talks today between the government and striking truckers' representatives failed to achieve any breakthrough, fuelling fears of a spike in prices of edible items in the coming days.
The mass protest crippled industrial activity in many parts of the country and hit food supplies to Kerala, which depends on neighbouring states for staple edibles, although transporters maintained supply of essentials like fuel.
"We want a complete roll-back of the increase in toll tax, but we are also open to a middle path," All India Motor Transport Congress' Gurinder Pal Singh told reporters after the second meeting with Transport Ministry officials in New Delhi.
Highways and Road Transport Minister TR Baalu told AIMTC representatives earlier in the day that a roll-back of toll tax rates, which were increased in February, was not possible as it was done through an Act of Parliament.
"The strike will continue," said Singh.
AIMTC, the apex body of transporters that claims to represent nearly 4.8 million truck and two million tempo operators, is demanding roll-back of hike in toll tax, honouring of service tax agreement of 2004, removal of speed governors on highways and rationalisation of duty on diesel.
"Three of the four demands of the transporters have been met... When the next meeting will be held has not been decided yet... Transport of essential items have been only partially affected," Transport Secretary Brahm Dutt said.
Separately, the Petroleum Ministry has assured that unbranded diesel would be made available to truckers at normal rates.