Goods worth several crores stranded in Tamil Nadu

With lorry owners going on strike from Saturday midnight protesting the “inordinate delay” in clearing vehicles at Kerala’s Commercial Taxes check-post at Walayar near Tamil Nadu border, goods worth crores of rupees have been left stranded.

The All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) had called for this strike to draw the attention of the Kerala government on this simmering issue. 

According to K.R. Arumugham, president of Coimbatore Lorry Owners’Association, nearly 2,500 lorries from across the country, carrying produce and products ranging from rice, chicken and eggs to motor cars, have stopped plying to Kerala. “It is taking anywhere between 24 and 36 hours for the trucks to cross this check-post. Lorry drivers are refusing to take Kerala trips as there are no basic amenities, food supplies or medicine in the area,” he said. Such a delay was not happening in any other State. Around 500 lorries from Coimbatore were normally operated to Kerala every day. 

Mr. Arumugham said that in Andhra Pradesh, it took only 15 minutes to clear check-posts as the State had installed sophisticated scanners. This could be replicated at Walayar too. The issue of delay in clearance was nearly two to three decades old. Lorry owners had staged a fast as early as in 1984 over this issue. He estimated that loss of commercial tax revenue to both the States and even the Centre to be several crores a day owing to this strike. Each lorry carried goods worth between Rs. 15 lakh and Rs. 20 lakh.

When contacted, Palakkad Collector P.M. Ali Asgar Pasha told The Hindu over the phone that a meeting with lorry owners would be held on Monday at the Palakkad Collectorate. Kerala government had taken this issue seriously and was contemplating adding two more counters at the check-post, which had around 14 at present. Further, the government was also thinking of replacing e-filing system with manual filing. This would reduce the waiting time by a couple of hours.  

Regarding the demand for a scanning system, Mr. Pasha said that it would materialise only when an integrated check-post came up. The strike was only having a minimum impact. The number of trucks crossing the check-post had declined only by around 20 to 30 per cent. “While just over 200 trucks had crossed the check-post as of 11 a.m. last Sunday, the figure was 180 this Sunday. There has also been no significant increase in prices of essential commodities as of now, but they could rise if the strike continued,” he said.

This is the sixth time truckers have frozen movement of trucks to Kerala in about a decade, seeking a solution to this issue. “While it was decided that entry of trucks into Kerala would be stopped from midnight on Sunday, trucks loaded with food items and essential commodities were allowed to enter Kerala till 3 a.m.”, former president of AIMTC and present chairman of the transport body’s Toll Committee told The Hindu over phone on Sunday. 

Mr. Shanmugappa said the Kerala government has not taken any initiative to hold talks with them and put an end to the strike that would badly affect people . The AIMTC would conduct a consultative meeting with its member associations and federations in Coimbatore on Monday, before deciding on further course of action and intensifying the strike. 

The Tamil Nadu Poultry Farmers’ Association has extended its support to the truckers’ stir by stopping movement of eggs (from Namakkal) and chicken (broilers from Palladam and aged egg laying birds from Namakkal) for the first two days - Sunday and Monday. Kerala is the second biggest market for eggs and chicken from Tamil Nadu - after Tamil Nadu. More than one crore eggs and lakhs of broilers from Tamil Nadu are sent to Kerala every day.