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Eight Day Long Truckers' Strike End; Gadkari Welcomes Decision
Transporters today called off their eight-day long strike after the government agreed to consider their demands, bringing relief to the industry mainly FMCG, ecommerce and auto players who were hit by the disruption in supplies.
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A joint statement from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and the All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) said, "The agitation by the AIMTC stands withdrawn immediately."
The decision to end the stir was taken after a marathon meeting of transporters and senior Road Transport and Highways Ministry officials today. The truckers' body, that claims support of 93 lakh truckers across the country, had gone on an indefinite strike on July 20 to press for their demands such as reduction in diesel prices, low third-party insurance premiums, and a favourable toll collection system.
Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari said, "The AIMTC has called off its strike on the appeal of the government. The government is sensitive towards the demands of the transporters. It has agreed to their many demands already and to consider the rest it has constituted a high-level committee."
The committee will be set up under the Road Transport, Highways secretary and it will submit its report within three months. It has been agreed that the Insurance Regulatory Development Authority of India (IRDAI) will discuss tomorrow the demand to review the premium for third-party insurance for heavy vehicles, the statement said.
"With regard to toll collections, the government agrees to put in place, within six months, a mechanism to ensure seamless movement of transport vehicles across the toll plaza with the help of technology," the statement said. Industries such as e-commerce, FMCG and automobile makers had faced the heat of the protest as also supplies of farm commodities like cotton, grains and spices took a hit.
Industry body Assocham said the strike caused direct and indirect estimated loss of more than Rs 50,000 crore to the economy, with micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) being the worst affected. Automobile industry body SIAM said companies have had to adjust production as the strike affected both parts supplies and distribution of vehicles. "Our members are facing an unprecedented crisis as it is affecting the movement of vehicles and components supply because of the strike," SIAM deputy director general Sugato Sen said.
E-commerce major Amazon also said the strike affected its product deliveries in some cities. AIMTC Core Committee Chairman Bal Malkit Singh claimed truckers lost around Rs 32,000 crore during the eight-day protest.
Reacting to withdrawal of the strike, CII President Rakesh Bharti Mittal said, "The end of the truckers strike comes as a big relief to industry across the country...We hope that the after effects of the strike and losses will be recovered soon."
The government said the Road Transport and Highways Ministry committee will also explore the possibility of more relief measures. "Government will look into the feasibility of extending the coverage of Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojna and Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Beema Yojna to drivers and co-workers of commercial vehicles," it said.
The government will also explore the possibility of providing health services under ESIC to drivers. Besides the government will notify a National Permit Scheme for tourist vehicles to facilitate seamless movement of tourist vehicles.
The government also said it will consider demands like increasing the validity of fitness certificates for vehicles to two years, simplification of national permit rules, regularisation of higher axle loads for existing vehicles, strict enforcement against overloading and uniform height for transport vehicles.
The committee will look into the demand of the "transporters sympathetically" relating to E-Way Bill implementation, any GST related issue, rationalisation/abolition of TDS rates and seamless travel among others, the statement said.
With regard to direct port delivery, it was decided that committee shall review any restrictive provisions in the present policy and suggest amendments to ensure fair and equitable participation.
The committee comprises representatives from Ministry of Shipping, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs and six representatives from AIMTC. Joint Secretary, Highways will be convenor of the committee.
AIMTC representatives met Finance Minister Piyush Goyal earlier in the day. Transporters' demands included a reduction in central and state taxes by bringing diesel under the GST so that price of the deregulated commodity can be reduced.
Essential commodities had been kept out of the strike. However, Anil Chavan, secretary, Agricultural Produce Market Committee, Mumbai, said the grains and spices market were affected due to the strike, with only 12 trucks and tempos of spices and 145 trucks and tempos of grains arriving at the mandi today till 4 pm, compared with 193 for spices and 308 for grains on July 20.
Cotton Association of India (CAI) president Atul Ganatra said ginning factories were on the verge of closure due to lack of raw material. Apart from reduction in diesel prices, truckers also protested against "flawed and non-transparent" toll collection system that they said favours road concessioners. They claimed time and fuel loss amounts to up to Rs 1.5 lakh crore annually on account of it.
Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari today hailed the All India Motor Transport Congress's decision to call off its strike
Talking to the media here, Gadkari said he and the finance minister were in constant discussions with the transport unions in this regard. "People were facing problems due to the transport unions' strike. Today we had success (in finding a breakthrough) in our discussions with the transport unions. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also guided us in our talks with the unions," he added.
"I want to assure the transport unions that the government will take positive steps towards their demands discussed during our meetings and we regret the problems faced by the public due to the strike," Gadkari said.
The government will notify a national permit scheme for tourist vehicles to facilitate seamless movement of such vehicles across the country, he added. "There will also be seamless traffic movement at the toll nakas within the next six months. Trucks will be allowed to move in less than three minutes at the toll nakas and they will be given fast-track stickers.
"The government will also explore the possibility of providing health services under the ESIC to the drivers and co-workers of commercial vehicles. It will also look into the feasibility of extending the coverage of the Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana and the Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana to the drivers and co-workers of commercial vehicles," Gadkari said.
A high-level committee under the chairmanship of the secretary, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways will be set up for expeditious resolution of transporters' demands, he said, adding that the panel will submit its recommendations to the government within three months.
The truckers' body that claims the support of 93 lakh truckers across the country had gone on an indefinite strike on July 20 to press demands such as reduction in diesel prices, low third-party insurance premiums and a favourable toll collection system.