NEW DELHI: Demanding scrapping of the present toll system, the All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) continued its nationwide strike for the second consecutive day on Friday, disrupting the supply of goods to various parts of the country.
While the supply of essential commodities such as milk, vegetables and medicines have been kept out of the purview of the strike, its impact was seen in various parts of the country, including Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh, among other places.
“We will continue our strike till the government comes out with some practical solution to our problem. We are not against paying toll but we are demanding it in an annualised form. The electronic-toll collection system as promised by the government is not practical,” AIMTC president Bhim Wadhwa said.
Wadhwa said the cumulative loss to truckers on account of the strike, which began at 6am on Thursday, would be about Rs 3,000 crore, while to the government it would be over Rs 20,000 crore in two days.
GOVT REFUSES TO BUDGE
However, the government has refused to budge from its stance and said it cannot scrap the toll collection system.
Road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari said on Thursday, “It is up to them to continue their strike. The government cannot scrap toll. We have already assured to implement the electronic tolling system pan-India by December. I appeal them to call off the strike.”
AIMTC claims to have 87 lakh trucks and 20 lakh buses and tempos across the country under its fold.
RIVAL BODY STAYS AWAY
Another truckers’ body, the All India Transport Welfare Association (AITWA), has decided to keep away from the strike.
The AIMTC is demanding scrapping of the existing toll system, saying it is a tool of harassment, while it is seeking a one-time payment of taxes and simplification of the TDS procedure.
Wadhwa said the e-tolling project of the government is a failed concept and partnering banks such as ICICI Bank and Axis Bank too have distanced themselves from the project.
He added that one of their demands is to bring TDS provisions on transport trade in the Pre-Finance Act, 2015, and finance minister Arun Jaitley has assured them to call a meeting with Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) chairman Anita Kapur on this.
On the other hand, the Indian Foundation of Transport Research and Training (IFTRT) said the AIMTC’s suggestion to have a fixed annual toll was not rational. “The AIMTC suggestion to have fixed an annual toll fee of Rs 30,000 for a truck on national permit and Rs 10,000 for intra-state permit vehicle needs examination as the proposal is highly flawed and irrational,” IFTRT coordinator SP Singh said.
He added: “The IFTRT has analysed the true issues of TDS on transport contractors and their misunderstanding of the real facts relating to amended Section 194C (6) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 as effective from June 1, 2015, in which the exemption to truckers from TDS deduction has been extended to a transporter owning not more than 10 trucks.”
Transporters’ strike hits Panipat handloom industry
The ongoing strike by the private transporters has hit the handloom industry of Panipat.
Industrialists said that time-bound consignments meant for export were being delayed. Industry sources claimed that if the strike continued for another couple of days, the export industry would be severely jolted.
“Export industry has to deliver their consignments to the port in time. As the movement of export material from Panipat has stopped completely, the consignments are being delayed. Any further delay due to the absence of transport means the consignment orders would be scrapped,” Panipat Exporters Association president Prem Sagar Vij told HT.
Exporters said once a consignment was cancelled, its price would fall more than half.
Meanwhile, information from Karnal and adjoining districts said that the goods transport services were almost paralysed. Traders said that supply of pulses, sugar etc might also get affected in the coming days.
Local transporters gathered at the transport union office at Sector 4 here said that the strike would continue until their demands were met.