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Hopes on end to truckers' strike

P. Manoj

New Delhi , Aug. 27

THE seven-day-old transporters strike may be called off anytime, according to an official with the All-India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC).

Mr Ravinder Singh Khurana, member of the Managing Committee of AIMTC, told reporters here that the nation-wide strike was likely to be called off after the Government appoints a committee to look into the problems of the transporters.

"We are hopeful of a positive outcome from the ongoing talks with the Finance Ministry. The strike is likely to end today," Mr Khurana said.

The breakthrough came during talks between the transporters and the Revenue Secretary, Ms Vineeta Rai in the evening.

The Revenue Secretary informed the AIMTC delegation that the service tax was not applicable to transporters who owned trucks. The tax would be collected only from those who engaged trucks from outside agencies.

The Finance Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, who was scheduled to leave for Mumbai at 7 p.m., delayed his departure, sparking off hopes of an early end to the strike. Mr Chidambaram is likely to meet an AIMTC delegation later tonight, AIMTC sources said.

In a big setback to the ongoing agitation by transporters under the banner of AIMTC, trucks and lorry associations in Andhra Pradesh today withdrew from the indefinite strike, according to the State Transport Commissioner, Mr R.S. Biswal.

"Andhra Pradesh Lorry Owners Association and State Motor Transport Owners Association have called off the ongoing strike with immediate effect," Mr Diswal said in a communication sent to the Union Road Transport Secretary, Mr Dhanendra Kumar.

Earlier in the day, the CPI(M) leader, Mr Harkishan Singh Surjeet stepped in to break the impasse on the seven-day-old nationwide transporters strike.

"I agree with their demand and the Government is working in the direction to end the strike," Mr Surjeet said after meeting a delegation from the AIMTC. The transporters have been on the indefinite strike to protest imposition of service tax.

The Government has ruled out rollback of service tax on goods booking agents following the passage of the Finance Bill on Thursday. However, the Finance Ministry has offered to sort out any procedural difficulty faced by goods booking agents in collecting and paying service tax to the Government.

"We have made it clear that any rollback (of 10 per cent service tax on goods booking agents) is not possible. The withdrawal of service tax is not negotiable. But we will take the truckers along with us in sorting out any procedural difficulty," Member, Central Board of Excise and Customs, Mr S.K. Bharadwaj, told reporters. The Finance Ministry is willing to discuss and make the procedure for collection of new tax easier, he said.

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