Over 90 lakh trucks and around 50 lakh buses, tempos and tourist vehicles went off the roads on Friday as their owners began an indefinite strike to press for their various demands, including reduction in diesel prices, an official said here on Friday.
"The strike response is very good... all economic activities like movement of goods and people are virtually paralysed, barring essential supplies, in Maharashtra and rest of India," Bombay Goods Transport Association (BGTA) Treasurer and Legal Cell chief Abhishek Gupta told IANS.
Pick-up or delivery of goods has been hit from manufacturing to consumer centres, cargo transport from airports, seaports and railway yards has been halted while movement of people in private buses and tourist vehicles was affected with even school-buses on strike.
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Gupta said while Mumbai accounts for over 500,000 trucks and 8,000-plus buses, the figures for Maharashtra are around 14,00,000 trucks, and around 40,000 buses plus some 60,000 tempos and tourist vehicles, barring government-owned vehicles.
An office-bearer of All Indian Transporters' Welfare Association (AITWA) said that "the 'chakka jam' (strike) call by the All India Motor Congress has evoked a massive response" as the issues raised affect the main stakeholders -- the truck-bus operators.
A large number of transporters led by BGTA committee member Deepak Verma also started an indefinite sit-in (dharna) protest at Azaid Maidan in Mumbai.
The prime demands of the AITWA include -- a reduction in prices of diesel by bringing it under goods and services tax (GST), six-monthly revision of fuel prices instead of the existing daily fluctuations, abolishing toll tax at all road toll posts in the country.
"We have already informed the government to scrap toll tax totally since the waiting period at toll posts results in massive losses by way of fuel and other overheads. The AITWA has said the government can collect the entire toll tax burden from us in advance annually but there is no response," said the AITWA official.
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Additionally, the transporters are upset about the high insurance premia, reduction in third-party premia and exempting it from GST, exemptions in certain other direct taxes, permit system overhaul and others.
Gupta said that last week AITWA officials held meetings with Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari and Finance Minister Piyush Goyal in Mumbai and New Delhi, but failed to get any concrete assurances compelling them to go ahead with the 'Chakka Jam' from today.