“The strike that will begin on April 1, 2013 is the first indefinite strike by the All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) after more than two years. Truckers across the country did not go on an indefinite strike even when the situation was getting worse over the last few months, keeping in mind the welfare of the common man,” vice-president of the AIMTC N.P. Velu told The Hindu here on Thursday.
According to him more than 12 crore people in the country are directly and indirectly dependent on freight transport industry for a living. “Frequent increase in diesel price after decontrol of diesel price fixation, escalating toll fees and Third Party Insurance (TPI) has affected these people.
The strike is to get the attention of the Union government to ensure that the livelihood of 10 per cent of the country’s population is not affected,” he added.
Three pressing issues
Dwelling on three pressing issues among the 12 demands put forward by the AIMTC to the government, Mr. Velu said the TPI for a majority of the trucks had been increased three fold in as many years.
“We made repeated representations to the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA), but they neither considered a reduction in the premium nor called us for discussing the issue,” he said.
Expressing concern over escalating toll fees, he said truckers were paying Rs. 7 to Rs. 8 per km.
“This will increase from September 2013. About six months ago, we met Rahul Gandhi and Minister and Secretary of the Government of India’s Transport Department in a bid to find a solution for the issue, but in vain.
“Oil companies are increasing diesel price by about 50 paise a litre every month, but the actual increase when we fill the fuel is 70 to 80 paise due to the corresponding increase in VAT. Earlier, the price of diesel was revised once a year, making it easy for transporters to fix the rent and contracts.
“Diesel price in Tamil Nadu has increased by Rs. 2.50 in the last three months, but we could not revise the rent due to the instability,” Mr. Velu said.
He pointed out that there were more than 75 lakh freight carriers in the country (of which a majority were trucks).
Mr. Velu said they would wait for the Union government to call them for talks and resolve the issues before March 30, failing which the strike would be inevitable.
“We expect the response to the strike call to be good as truckers’ associations and federations in North India, who were not very supportive in such strikes in the past, have also extended support to the nationwide strike this time. However, trucks carrying essential commodities, such as medicine, food items, vegetables and fruits would be exempted from the strike,” he said.