Mumbai : After political parties resorting to Bharat Bandh on Thursday, transporters across India will also remain off the roads to protest against the steep rise in diesel prices. The All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) announced that about 75 lakh truckers across India out of which 22 lakh transport vehicles are from Maharashtra will remain off the roads after Wednesday midnight.

According to AIMTC, the vehicles transporting essential commodities like vegetables, milk, medicines, etc are not supposed to join the strike.

 “Ideally transport vehicles serving essential commodities are exempted from the strike but since such issues also affect them, they participate in the strike at their will and we can’t stop them from doing so. They will mostly participate in the strike,” said Bal Malkit Singh, president of AIMTC.

 Transport of vegetables, milk, fruits, etc is thus expected to be affected. “About 5500-6000 vehicles supply products to the Vashi market daily. Out of these, 2000-2500 vehicles transport essential commodities,” said Prakash Gavali, president, Maharashtra Rajya Truck Tempo Tankers Bus Vahatuk Mahasangh.

 When asked if the transporters are supporting the BJP called Bharat Bandh, Singh said, “We are a non-political organization and don’t support the Bharat Bandh. Ours is an independent decision as Wednesday marks the beginning of the Ganesh festival.”

 The association will send a proposal to the government with all their demands and wait a month before deciding the next course of action.

 “This would be a token strike. If the government doesn’t roll back the rise in diesel price, we will go for an indefinite ‘chakkajam’. We will wait for 20 days for our next meeting,” added Singh.

 “About 45% of our operating cost is spent for diesel.”

 One of the demands is to equalize the fuel prices across all the states. “The Maharashtra government charges 24% VAT on diesel which is too high. The central government should equalize the VAT percentage in all states,” said GR Shanmugappa.

 According to Singh, the transport industry would bear a loss of about Rs 2500 crores in one day.

Meanwhile, to avoid any harm to BEST buses, the undertaking would cover the buses with grills and would also ask city police to help with one constable per bus on the routes where violent incidents have happened in the past.

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