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October 26, 1999


Transporters' strike continues in some parts, govt remains firm on diesel price hike

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The stalemate between the agitating truck operators and the government continued for the sixth day today amid contrasting claims by both sides.

Talks were held in New Delhio on Tuesday evening between office bearers of the All India Motor Transport Congress and the government to end the strike.

The talks lasted two hours. The two sides are expected to meet again to continue the negotiations, official sources said.

A spokesman of the AIMTC confirmed that talks had been held but refused comment on whether there were hopes of a quick resolution of the stalemate. The AIMTC had given the strike call to press its demand for a rollback of the hike in diesel price announced by the government recently.

The government said truck operators in Orissa and Gujarat have called off their strike, dissociating themselves from the agitation being led by the AIMTC against the diesel price hike. However, the AIMTC maintained the nationwide strike was ''total'' and had not been withdrawn in any state, even partially.

''Transport companies all over the country have not taken any booking or effected delivery on the sixth day of suspension of work,'' according to J M Saksena, secretary-general of the AIMTC. Representing 2.26 million truck operators, 350,000 bus operators and 160,000 transport companies, the AIMTC was the only authority to take a final decision on the strike issue, he said.

Reiterating its stand that it would resume dialogue with the government only if it agreed to negotiate the demand for a rollback of the diesel hike, the AIMTC had sought Prime Minister Vajpayee's intervention to resolve the issue amicably.

According to reports received by the surface transport ministry from various states, the supply of essential commodities was being maintained across the country. The railways have made special arrangements to ensure that supply of such items is not affected by the strike.

A government statement said in Maharashtra, Haryana, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, the strike has been partial. Light commercial vehicles are being used for the movement of essential commodities in Goa, Rajasthan, Punjab, Maharashtra and Karnataka. In Himachal Pradesh, 200 to 300 trucks are moving on the inter-state routes. In Uttar Pradesh, transporters have been invited for talks on the withdrawal of the strike.

Movement of goods, including essential commodities, continued to be paralysed in Tamil Nadu and Jammu and Kashmir. Industrial, farm and textile products were piled up at various places. Many industrial units especially small scale units, started to feel the heat of the strike as their operations were crippled due to shortage of raw materials.

Supply of petroleum products, cooking gas were, however, being maintained. With depletion of supply, the prices of vegetables continued to soar. The Southern Railway had come forward to supplement the efforts of the state government to transport farm products.

While the state government lent its corporation buses, the Southern Railway operated parcel special trains and passenger trains to help movement of vegetables and milk products like curd and butter.

Vehicular movement was paralysed in Tripura in the North-East in response to the 24-hour transport strike, called by the Tripura Motor Transport Operators' Coordination Committee to protest against the hike in diesel price. Police said no untoward incident was reported. Tripura Motor Sramik Union joint secretary Bishu Saha claimed that the strike was total and successful.

The Madhya Pradesh State Roadways Corporation has hiked the bus fare by 33 per cent and the price of vegetables have soared by two to ten times. The strike has had a nominal effect on general goods. Traders feel their wholesale business would be affected.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh in a letter urged PM Vajpayee to intervene and find an amicable solution. He said the smooth supply of essential commodities has been maintained. If the strike continues, it would later affect the availability of essential commodities and also have an adverse impact on the economy of the state, he added.

Karnataka Transport Minister C R Sageer Ahmed said that the meeting with representatives of the truckers yielded no result. The representatives, however, had assured that supply of essentials would not be disrupted. He said the supply of petroleum products were being maintained.



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