K. Balchand

NEW DELHI: Even as a section of truck operators struck work at midnight on Sunday night, the Centre hurriedly conceded a couple of their demands, drew up an alternative action plan, and directed the State governments to enforce the law to ensure supply and availability of essential commodities.

Transport and Highways Secretary Brahm Dutt said he considered most of the demands of the All-India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) unreasonable, but announced the government’s willingness to restructure loans and exempt all sub-contract services under the Goods Transport Agencies (GTA) from payment of service tax.

In his assessment, the strike affected movement of trucks in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Haryana and partially in Gujarat and Rajasthan.

It has had no impact in Bihar and the northeastern States, he said.

The Centre has put in place an 18-point alternative plan which included a directive to the Railways to arrange for supply of essential commodities and asking the State governments and district magistrates to see that traders and merchants helped with retail sales.

The Centre has also asked the States to take action against those who thwarted supply of essentials.

As for calling in the Army and invoking the Essential Services Maintenance Act, the option has been left to the States with the assurance that the Centre would stand by their actions in the interest of the common man.

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