Truck owners began an indefinite strike on Saturday to protest mainly against the proposed 50 percent hike in the third party insurance premium, amid apprehensions that the protest could lead to supply disruption and raise commodity prices in the coming days.
In a bid to resolve the stand-off, the strikers will meet Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) Chairman, and take a decision on whether to continue with the agitation based on the discussions with the regulator.
While South India was the most affected, other states like West Bengal, Odisha, Assam, Tripura, Bihar and parts of Maharashtra, Kerala, and Karnataka also faced protests.
“Lorries are not going to southern states from other parts of the country. Trucks which have national permits have been diverted...All south India-bound trucks and lorries have stopped. And there is no movement from south India also,” said All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) President SK Mittal.
In West Bengal, rows of trucks were stranded at various points across the state. There was no loading and unloading of goods. There were fears that the strike could lead to severe shortages of fish, vegetables, and fruits, triggering a price increase.
In parts of Punjab and Haryana, limited movement of trucks were reported as the majority of the trucks did not ply. In Maharashtra, the impact was partial but as many as 10,000 trucks are off the roads.
Around 22 lakh trucks have stayed off the roads in Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Puducherry since midnight on Thursday.
“The five states and one union territory (in South India) will incur losses of Rs 5,500 crore per day due to this agitation,” General Secretary of South India Motor Transport Association and South Zone Motor Transporters' Welfare Association (SZMTWA), GR Shanmugappa said. More groups might join the agitation from 20 April if it isn’t called off.
The third party premium for automobiles is decided by IRDAI, while all other premium rates are decided by the insurers – private and government-owned. Fleet owners normally go only for third party policies and take care of the damages to vehicles on their own.
Truck owners are also demanding the reinstatement of a tariff advisory committee and protesting against fines proposed in the Motor Vehicles Act amendment.
Mittal said truckers have been demanding category-wise real time data from the insurance regulator, but this has not been provided so far.
“Lorries whose insurance premiums are due are now renewing them, as they are opposed to the sharp and arbitrary increase in the premium," he said.
According to Mittal, the total number of trucks in India stands at around 94 lakhs.
(With inputs from PTI and IANS.)
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