Even as the nation-wide truckers strike called by the All India Motor Transport Congress entered its seventh day on Thursday, a top official in the government said it shared the opinion that fuel prices should be included in GST but added that truckers cannot hold the government to ransom on this.
As estimated 90 lakh trucks have been off the roads since July 20 as truckers are protesting against high diesel prices, removal of all tall barriers across the country and reduction of third party insurance premium.
"Everybody knows the government also wants to bring fuel prices under GST but the decision to do that will be taken by the GST council and not by the government alone," a joint secretary with the ministry of road transport and highways told Business Today. "Going on an indefinite strike knowing it will affect supply of essential goods is blackmail. Some of their demands are not even genuine. They cannot be allowed to hold the country to ransom."
Some of the other demands by the truckers include abolition of TDS, rationalisation of Income Tax Act, smoother functioning E-way bill, national permit for tourists and buses and abolition of direct port delivery tendering system. AIMTC members had last Thursday met the union finance minister Piyush Goyal and road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari to inform them of their demands. They were told that the government would look into their grievances but indications were given to not expect quick resolutions.
On Monday, AIMTC had tweeted that the government remained insensitive to their demands hinting that no overture for a negotiation was made by the government. The official from the ministry of road transport and highways would not say whether somebody has reached out to the truckers body.
"Prices of diesel have gone up in line with the increase in international crude prices. It is not like the government is getting a windfall from it," the official said. "Bringing it under GST is a time consuming process as there are revenue implications and we have to build consensus across states."
The strike has begun to hit supply of goods in the country while also impacting prices of fruits and vegetables.
On Tuesday, Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Shailesh Patwari said that the strike had adversely affected Gujarat's textiles, pharmaceuticals, chemical and ceramic industry. "Movement of raw materials and finished goods have got hit. Export orders are expiring, which is affecting our prestige in the international markets," Patwari said.
Various FMCG firms like Dabur, Reckitt Benckiser Nestle and Britannia, have also started facing disruption in supplies.