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Lorry stir: ESMA may be invoked

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STANDOFF: Lorries parked at Wellingdon Island in the city following the indefinite strike called by goods carriers. The supply of essential commodities and fuel is likely to be affected in the coming days. Photo: H. Vibhu
STANDOFF: Lorries parked at Wellingdon Island in the city following the indefinite strike called by goods carriers. The supply of essential commodities and fuel is likely to be affected in the coming days. Photo: H. Vibhu

Special Correspondent

Goods carriers may be seized from today to prevent shortage of commodities

Thiruvananthapuram: The State Government is seriously considering invoking the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) to face the ongoing lorry strike.

With the lorry strike threatening to add to the inflationary trend and shortage of essential commodities and cooking gas, the Government will have no option but to go in for some hard decision including seizure of lorries, according to Government sources. Shortage in cooking gas has been reported in some parts of the State and fresh supplies are unlikely to come from Monday owing to the strike.

Transport Minister Mathew T. Thomas said no further discussions had been held with the lorry owners after efforts at conciliation failed to produce any result. He said the Government would have to take action to ensure that the people were not put to any difficulty.

The lorry strike has come on top of the 53-odd hartals at the State, district or regional levels during the last six months.

It has come at a time when the State has been grappling with the runaway rise in prices of essential commodities.

Government sources said the lorry owners demands were unjustified, particularly those relating to the recent budgetary increase in road tax. The demand was brought in only late in the day when the Government was willing to consider several of their other issues including cancelling the United Democratic Front Government's order identifying six companies for the purchase of speed governors.

The State Government, according to sources, is unlikely to concede the lorry owners' demand for withdrawing the road tax hike since it had not been touched for more than a decade.

It is likely that goods carriers will be seized from Monday, to prevent shortage of fuel and other commodities. This comes in the wake of Mr. Thomas issuing directions to officials to ensure that priority is accorded to supply of aviation fuel and diesel to Kerala State Road Transport Corporation buses.

Lorries keep off Kerala

PTI adds from Coimbatore:

Movement of goods, estimated at lakhs of rupees, was affected as lorries from Tamil Nadu were stationed in the border areas following a decision by their owners not to run them to Kerala in an expression of solidarity with the lorry strike there. The Tamil Nadu Lorry Owners' Federation had decided not to ply their vehicles to Kerala from Saturday midnight.

According to the police, hundreds of lorries from Tamil Nadu are stationed in the border areas of Meenakshipuram, Govindapuram and Walayar and also at Ukkadam in Coimbatore city. Lorries that could not cross the border following the 12-hour bandh in Tamil Nadu on Saturday were also stranded.

Movement of textiles, broilers, eggs, oil, turmeric, sugar, rice and vegetables from Coimbatore, Erode and Namakkal was totally affected, following the strike, trade sources said.

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