New Delhi(PTI): Apex transporters’ body AIMTC said on Wednesday it will go on a nationwide strike from Thursday to demand scrapping of the present toll system and ‘one-time’ payment of taxes, even as the government appealed to call off the move.
While talks with the government failed to stop the ‘Chakka-Jam’, the All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) said essential services would be excluded from the strike, although another transporters’ body AITWA decided to steer clear from it.
In a meeting with the AIMTC delegation, road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari promised a pan-India electronic toll system by December to address their concerns but ruled out complete scrapping.
“We are proceeding on strike. Electronic toll system offered by the highways minister is no solution as e-tolling project of the government is a failed concept… Even their pilot project has failed,” AIMTC president Bhim Wadhwa told PTI after meeting finance minister Arun Jaitely.
“The partnering banks such as ICICI Bank and Axis Bank too have distanced itself from the project,” he said.
Wadhwa said one of their demands included TDS provisions on transport trade to Pre-Finance Act 2015 and Jaitley assured them to call a meeting with CBDT chairman in this regard.
“The strike is likely to cause Rs 1,500 crore losses to truckers and over Rs 10,000 crore loss to government on a daily basis,” Wadhwa claimed.
On All India Transport Welfare Association (AITWA) keeping away from the strike, Wadhwa said AIMTC was the apex body and represented about 87 lakh trucks and 20 lakh buses and tempos.
AITWA president Pradeep Singhal said they will refrain from any strike.
AIMTC has announced an indefinite nation-wide strike from October 1 against the toll collection system, saying it has become a tool for corruption and harassment.
It has said that it is not against toll, but the collection system, and has demanded barrier-free movement of vehicles as well as one-time collection of taxes.
Earlier in the day, Gadkari appealed the AIMTC to call off the strike, assuring an electronic toll collection system by December at all 325 toll plazas.
“I have assured the transporters to implement electronic toll system by December across about 325 toll plazas in the country to solve their demands of averting delays at such booths. I have also told them that the Centre will hold talks with state governments and extend this system free of cost to them,” Gadkari told reporters.
Gadkari said it was not possible to scrap the toll system but the government has assured it would provide a wide network of good roads with no delays after the electronic toll system, in which toll will be collected electronically through chips fitted in the vehicles at toll plazas.
“I have also assured them the government is serious about running electric vehicles on roads to minimise pollution and is serious about their problems. Government is positive to find out solutions to all their problems,” he said.
The Indian Foundation of Transport Research and Training (IFTRT) said that AIMTC’s suggestion to have fixed annual toll was not rational.
“AIMTC suggestion to have fixed annual toll fee of Rs 30,000 for a truck on national permit and Rs 10,000 for intra-state permit vehicle needs examination as the proposal is highly flawed and irrational,” IFTRT coordinator SP Singh said.
Meanwhile, a state truckers body in Tamil Nadu said that nearly 6.55 lakh trucks will be off the roads from Thursday in response to the indefinite nationwide strike call given by AIMTC.
The Tamil Nadu Lorry Owners Federation treasurer Chennakesavan said no lorries would ply from 6am on Thursday and agents had already stopped booking of goods to northern states, he said, adding nthat early one crore drivers and cleaners would be affected by the stir.
This can affect transport of essential commodities, vegetables, goods and construction materials, among others.
The AIMTC has maintained it is ready to pay a higher toll but that should be collected as indirect tax because of harassment by different agencies.