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Transporters' strike from tomorrow

By Our Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI, AUG. 19. Criticising the Union Finance Minister, P. Chidambaram's move to introduce a 10 per cent service tax on "services provided by transport booking agents", the All-India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) — comprising the owners of trucks, tempos, LPG tankers and buses throughout the country — has announced an indefinite nationwide strike from August 21.

"Our trucks carrying goods such as eggs, chickens, groceries, garments, ghee and industrial material would stop plying on roads across the country from 6 a.m. on August 21. About 40 lakh transporters would take part," said the president of the AIMTC, Baba Saheb Dhumal, at a press conference here today.

Defending the move that will lead to the escalation of the prices of essential commodities, Mr. Dhumal said: "The transporters are doing yeoman service to the country by plying even in those areas that are unsafe. Many of our drivers get killed. On top of this, the Tax Deduction at Source has been increased to Rs. 50,000 a truck per year. Then there is the scrapping of eight-year-old vehicles. A single truck owner annually pays Rs. 2,28,575 in the form of excise and custom duties and sales tax. Then we have to pay road tax and grease the palms of unscrupulous policemen. While we will be undergoing a loss of Rs. 500 crores of business a day, the loss of production will be Rs. 15,000 crores."

Making the point that transporters are not well-educated, the secretary-general of the AIMTC, J.M. Saksena, said: "The transporters would find it difficult to do all the paperwork. We would be passing the burden onto the passengers. Therefore, this new service tax announced by the United Progressive Government would break the back of the common man. How could a person who earns Rs. 45,000 per annum file income tax returns?"

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