New Delhi/Mumbai– Transportation services across the country were severely impacted on Friday as private bus and truck operators began an indefinite strike to press for their various demands, including a reduction in diesel prices.

According to the All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC), transportation services to and from ports, refineries and industrial units have been stopped.

“After the inconclusive talks with Nitin Gadkari (Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways) and Piyush Goyal (Union Minister for Finance), the transport fraternity of India proceeded with indefinite suspension of transport operations nationwide,” AIMTC Secretary General Naveen Kumar Gupta told IANS.

The industry has demanded that diesel be brought under the ambit of GST and tax structures like the e-way bill should be simplified.

At present, the main transport fuel — diesel — constitutes nearly 60 per cent of the overall operations cost of the industry.

The strike is expected to hike the prices of essential commodities and impact inter-state travel.

As per a AIMTC statement: “Processions, protest rallies, meetings, sit-in dharnas marked” the first day of nationwide strike.

“The angst and the frustration of the truckers and the transporters of India poured out due to non resolution of the issues of the trade in a concrete manner.”

The AIMTC pointed out that there was total bandh in Maharashtra, Gujarat, entire South India, Uttralchand, Chattisgarh, Odhisa, Chandigarh, UP, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and J&K.

“The movement will get intensified in days to come,” the statement added.

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 Bombay Goods Transport Association (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.

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. (IANS)