New Delhi, June 18 : Truck owners and operators in different parts of the country launched an indefinite nationwide strike on Monday against high diesel prices, high toll rates and a sharp hike of third party insurance premium.
The All India Confederation of Goods Vehicles Owners' Association (ACOGOA), which was among the organisations that had called the strike, said about 40 lakh trucks were off the road across the country.
"An estimated 40 lakh trucks did not ply and the revenue loss to the exchequer exceeded Rs 800 crore," ACOGOA General Secretary Kausar Hussain told IANS.
He said that the call for strike received good response and impacted movement of trucks in various states including West Bengal, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab and Rajasthan.
He said while West Bengal was under "complete chakka jam", the response from other states was also encouraging.
"Some of our district associations have also submitted memorandum at the respective collectors office appraising them about the demands," he said.
In Punjab and Haryana, thousands of trucks remained off the roads, hampering movement of goods, particularly vegetables and fruits, in the two agrarian states.
Punjab has over 90,000 trucks. Haryana has thousands of trucks, most of them operating in the national capital region (NCR) area, particularly in Gurugram, Faridabad, Jhajjar and Rohtak districts. Truck operators said that the total loss in Punjab due to the strike could be over Rs 10 crore daily.
In Tamil Nadu, about two lakh lorries did not ply on Monday with a top official of Tamil Nadu Lorry Owners Federation saying the response was good.
"The strike began at 6 a.m. About two lakh lorries did not ply owing to the strike. Tomorrow the number would go up to 3 lakh and the number of lorries not running would go up further in the following days," its president R. Sugumar told IANS.
Complaining about high diesel prices and toll rates, he said: "Many clients while calling for freight tenders stipulate that the quoted amount should include tolls and even GST (Goods Services Tax). So the toll rates are not passed on to our clients. Our members are bearing it."
He said there are several companies that have shut shop owing to huge freight bills and the lorry owners do not know how to recover their dues from such companies.
ACOGOA said that while movement of trucks in and out of Kerala did not take place on Monday, the trucks ran within the state.
Explaining the reason, the association's General Secretary A. Jayaprakash told IANS that it "was decided that Kerala is passing through difficult times on account of the rains and hence decided that, we should not put people into more trouble".
Meanwhile, Hussain said that while the big truckers and transport agencies are just managing to survive, a number of recent changes including fuel price have "killed the small and medium transport businesses".
He said increase in premium of third party insurance by the Insurance Regulatory Development Authority of India (IRDAI) is also "killing" the transport industry, which largely comprises small businesses, having one to three trucks.
Asked if they had political support, Hussain said they had received a support letter from the Communist Party of India, but their association and the decision to go on strike is "completely non-political".
He also said they had no recourse but to strike as their letters to the Prime Minister, the Finance Ministry, Petroleum Ministry and Road Transport Ministry received no response.
While ACOGOA called for indefinite strike from Monday, another organisation -- All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) -- said that it will observe strike from July 20 on the same lines.
ACOGOA President Channa Reddy said the reason for increase in prices of diesel and petrol was not international prices but high taxes levied by the governments -- the Centre and state.
Federation of West Bengal Truck Operators' Association Joint Secretary Sajal Ghosh demanded inclusion of diesel or petroleum products in the ambit of GST.