New Delhi: Supply of goods was affected in most parts of the country on Thursday as lakhs of trucks went off the roads on a nationwide strike called by the All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) to oppose the toll system.
Delivery of essential commodities like milk, vegetables and medicines, however, were kept out of the strike's purview.
The AIMTC is demanding scrapping of the toll system, claiming that toll barriers have become dens of corruption, harassment and extortion. It claims that the toll system is causing unnecessary delays and leading to wastage of time and fuel.
The government has, however, ruled out scrapping of toll.
The truckers' body is also demanding one-time payment of taxes besides simplification of Tax Deducted at Source.
Trade insiders told IANS that the strike caused losses running into hundreds of crores of rupees to the trading community, truckers and even the government.
"The strike is likely to cause losses of Rs.1,500 crore to truckers and over Rs.10,000 crore to the government daily," AIMTC president Bhim Wadhwa said.
The AIMTC claims to represent owners of about 87 lakh trucks as well as 20 lakh buses and tempos.
However, another truckers' body, All India Transport Welfare Association (AITWA), did not join the strike.
Talks between the AIMTC and the union transport ministry failed after truckers rejected the government's offer to implement an e-toll (electronic toll) system by December.
About 16 lakh trucks went off the roads in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh on Thursday as part of the indefinite strike by the truckers to protest against the present toll system.
Movement of goods to Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada, Guntur and other major towns was affected severely by the strike.
Truck operators in the two Telugu states are also seeking a single-permit system in view of the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. They want Telangana and Andhra Pradesh to enter into a single-permit agreement so that vehicles can play between the two states on payment of a fixed tax.
Truck operators in Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh also joined the strike, affecting the movement of goods in the region.
The ever-busy stretches of the National Highways No. 1 and 8 like the Amritsar-Delhi route (NH-1) and Delhi-Jaipur (NH-8) had lesser traffic on Thursday as truckers went on strike.
Movement of trucks within West Bengal, however, remained unaffected on Thursday as the state's largest truckers' body did not participate directly in the indefinite nationwide strike called by the AIMTC.
"We have lent moral support on the issues on which the strike has been called. Though we are not opposing the strike, we are not directly participating in the strike either. There is no affect on the movement of trucks in the state," Federation of West Bengal Truck Operators Association general secretary Subhas Chandra Bose told IANS.
Bose, however, said that with the strike drawing a good response in the country's southern region, the number of trucks coming in from states like Andhra Pradesh had dropped.
About the strike impact in other states, he said: "There is no loading of trucks in Gujarat. Seventy percent of vehicles were on the road in Mumbai, while the response was mixed in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha."
An Agartala report said that movement of trucks was hit in Tripura.
"We have joined the strike as we support the issues," Tripura Truck Owners' Association president Rupak Roy Burman told IANS in Agartala.
In Madhya Pradesh, supply of essential goods was hit.
Truckers' association president Paramvir Singh told IANS: "We demand the scrapping of the toll system, and changes in road pollution and safety regulations. The state has more than 40,000 trucks and they will not run until our demands are met."
Around 1.70 lakh truckers in Odisha also joined the nationwide strike. Transportation of goods to various places in the state was badly affected as a result.
"We were forced to go on strike after several unsuccessful parleys with the central government. We had no option but to go on strike," said Odisha Truck Owners' Federation general secretary Rabinarayan Satpathy.
He said the central government had increased the number of toll plazas due to which truckers were facing numerous problems, including waste of fuel due to ideal running and delayed deliveries.