In support of the Bharat Bandh on Friday, trucks and cargo transport vehicles will not only stop plying, but are also expected to block all highways in Karnataka. This bandh has been called by the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) and All India Transport Welfare Association (AITWA) to protest fuel price hike and demand simplification of Goods and Services Tax (GST).
While the transport sector has decided to participate in the strike, the State’s trade bodies have only extended moral support. They have decided not to down shutters in view of losses already incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, trade will be affected given that trucks will not be plying.
Senior police officials said that they would not allow trucks to hamper traffic movement.
“The cost we incur per kilometre has risen from ₹28 a year ago to ₹40, mainly due to increase in diesel prices. The excise duty is increased whenever international crude oil price is decreased, but when the international crude oil price is increased, the excise duty is not decreased,” said G.R. Shanmugappa, general secretary, South Zone Motor Transporters’ Welfare Association.
Threat of indefinite strike
He listed other woes, including the proposed vehicle scrapping policy and e-way bills. “We are tired of making repeated representations to the government, and have decided to go on an indefinite strike from March 15 across the country, if our demands are not met,” he said.
While fuel price hike remains the main pain point for the transport sector, trade bodies are also demanding simplification of the GST Code.
“Despite 395 amendments to the GST Code, we are in a mess. This is pushing several MSMEs into extinction. Given the economic situation owing to the pandemic, recession and fuel price hike, only a simplified GST Code can help revive the economy,” said prominent trade activist Sajjan Raj Mehta.
Foodgrains trader Ramesh Chandra Lahoti, also a member of FKCCI, said while the traders had extended moral support to the bandh and will submit memorandums to government functionaries in all districts on Friday, businesses won’t be shut down.