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Truckers call off strike after five days

M.K. Ananth
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Accord with Transport Ministry officials reached on three major issues

RELIEF IN SIGHT: Textile goods meant for other States have piled up in warehouses.
RELIEF IN SIGHT: Textile goods meant for other States have piled up in warehouses.

The strike by the All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) and the State Lorry Owners Federation Tamil Nadu (SFLOATN) in the six South Indian States from the midnight on August 18 was called off on Tuesday evening after they reached an accord on some of their demands with the officials of the Union Ministry of Surface Transport. The decision was announced by AIMTC president G.R. Shanmugappa on Tuesday evening after they reached an agreement with officials of the Ministry on three major issues during the two-day talks in New Delhi from Monday.

He told The Hindu over phone from New Delhi that “orders were issued for immediate implementation of the agreement signed between the AIMTC and the ministry on December 4, 2010”. According to him, nearly 20 lakh trucks – of the total strength of about 26 lakh trucks – in the six States took part in the strike.

All the 94 public funded projects of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) had been asked to collect only 50 per cent toll from trucks with local registration, he added. Talking about toll collection on the Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) highways maintained by private companies, he said the Ministry had promised to reduce toll rates after discussing with the companies.

After discussing the issues with Surface Transport Minister C.P. Joshi, the Secretaries in the Ministry also promised that in future the increase in toll charges for conversion of four-lane highways to six lanes would be collected only after completion of the works, the AIMTC president said.

Other major demands accepted were reduction of duty on tyres and third-party insurance rates, Mr. Shanmugappa added.

The calling off of the strike is expected to facilitate movement of goods that began accumulating at various centres. The Erode weekly textile market reported a sharp drop in bulk orders. Till Monday, there were fears of LPG supply in the State and movement of poultry products from Namakkal getting hit if the strike were to continue for some more days.

SFLOATN president K. Nallathambi, who was one of the representatives in the meeting, said they did not discuss reduction of diesel prices though it was the second important demand put forward by the AIMTC and associate federations during the strike.

“Reducing diesel prices needs consultations with the Petroleum and Finance Ministers. As this will take time, it was not discussed”, Mr. Nallathambi said. “However, the officials concerned said they will conduct monthly meetings with us to discuss this issue,” he added. Secretary and Joint Secretaries of the Union Government's Surface Transport Ministry and President of the South India Motor Transport Association Gopal Naidu were present at the meeting.

Erode Staff Reporter writes:

The wholesale weekly textile market held in Erode town on Tuesday has registered a significant fall in the sales as many buyers stayed away from placing orders due to the truck operators' stir.

Textile goods meant for other States are piling up in the warehouses and offices of booking agents. The movement of turmeric is also affected by the strike. The daily auctions held in the Erode markets were suspended and farmers had stopped bringing in the turmeric,” Erode Turmeric Merchants Association president R.K.V. Ravishankar told The Hindu .

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