Succumbing to pressure from an unrelenting establishment,transporters across the country called off the eight-day long strike unconditionally on Monday. This is the second time in the past one week that the government has dealt with a heavy hand with striking workers,after the oil public sector undertakings strike ended last weekend. The government had arrested about thirty persons under the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) and National Security Act in various states,who may now be released on the insistence of the Centre.
The union minister for road transport and highways has already written to the lieutenant governor of Delhi for the release of the leader of the striking All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC). Other state governments are also expected to follow suit and withdraw cases against the transporters.
We have set up a redressal committee that will address issues of motor vehicle tax rationalisation and the national permit system headed by the secretary. The committee will submit its report in the next eight weeks, the road transport and highways minister T R Baalu said addressing a press conference after the strike was called-off.
The government has also decided to constitute standing committees both at the centre and the state levels as a permanent mechanism for the redressal of the truckers’ grievances. The decision was taken after T R Baalu held a states transport ministers conference in the afternoon.
According to sources in the know of the days developments,the strike fell apart due to differences amongst transporters and truckers. About 30-40 per cent of Indias 4.3 million trucks had gone off the roads. Most of these were truckers owning one or two goods-carriage vehicles,who had to support the strike instigated by goods transport agents who do not generally own trucks, a senior government official said on the side lines.
The fact that transporters dropped their demands on moratorium on toll and payment of loan installments is a clear signal that the tough hand with which the government handled the strike forced them to call it off unconditionally. Toll rates will remain at the level of December 1,2007.
With regard to their demand for reduction on diesel price,the administrative ministry conveyed to transporters that the decision would be taken by the Cabinet. Petroleum and natural gas minister Murli Deora has already indicated a cut in diesel prices.
On service tax notices,non-deduction of tax deducted at source (TDS) from truck freight payments and reduction of prices of tyres,the AIMTC has been asked to make a detailed presentation,which will then be discussed with the concerned ministries and departments.