All-India truckers' strike hits supply of fresh fruits from Kashmir

Transportation of goods to valley also affected

Supply of fresh fruit from Kashmir to various parts of the country took a hit on Friday as Valley-based truckers along with goods carriers from outside began an indefinite all-India “chakka jam strike” to press for their demands which includes  reduction of fuel prices and resolving concerns related to Goods and Services Tax.  

The call for the strike given by All India Motor Transport Congress has been supported by truckers in Jammu and Kashmir which has also hit supply of essentials to the valley. Key demands of truckers include slashing diesel prices, issues in GST, especially e-way billing and highway tolls. The transporters are also demanding a reduction in central and state taxes by getting diesel under the GST so that price of the deregulated commodity can be reduced.

Several fruit growers and dealers told Greater Kashmir that truckloads of fresh fruits including Hazratbali apple, plum, peach and pear lying at the local mandis here are stuck due to the strike.

Bashir Ahmad Basheer, chairman, Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers cum Dealers Union said almost 60-80 trucks carrying early varieties of apple and pear which are transported from Kashmir to outside daily have come to a halt due to the strike.

“The early varieties of our fruit are highly perishable and presently production of same is at its peak which requires to be transported to its destinations on priority. But today none of the truckers agreed to load fruits due to the strike. We fear that the entire packaged supply of fresh fruits will get damaged causing heavy losses to growers of the valley,” Basheer said.

Kashmir-based Goods Carrier Transporters Association, president, Muhammad Sidiq Ronga told Greater Kashmir that it was imminent for Valley-based truckers to extend support for the all-India strike of goods carriers.

Ronga said the transporters in Kashmir have joined the all-India strike as they too are facing problems due to the e-way billing system which they want to be resolved soon. He said truckers on the way to Kashmir are being “unnecessarily penalised” by the taxation officials for undervalue declaration of goods made by traders. Ronga said transport sector should be exempted from e-way bill generation.

“We accept goods consignments from traders which are packed and we are not aware about the actual number and value of goods as compared to the declaration made by them. Tax officials on the way to Kashmir off-late have been catching hold of truck drivers and penalising them for under valuing which by no means is our violation,” Ronga said. “If traders have already generated e-way bill what is the need for transporters to do so,” Ronga said.

Ronga said truckers are also against the "flawed and non-transparent" toll collection system that favours road concessioners, and alleged that the time and fuel loss goes up to Rs 1.5 trillion annually on account of it. Truckers are also miffed at high insurance premium and want a reduction in third-party premium, exemption on third- party premium from GST, he added.

Recently fruit growers had expressed concern about the cherry and plum loaded trucks being shipped from Kashmir were stopped at Qazigund and other places on the Srinagar-Jammu highway so as to pave way for other vehicles.