BHUBANESWAR: Even as the truckers’ strike in Keonjhar and Sundargarh districts over freight fixation issues has crippled industries and left lakhs of workers without livelihood, a speedy resolution is not in sight.
The strike, which entered the third day on Wednesday, has not only completely cut off ore and mineral supply from the mining belt to industries but also inflicted a heavy cost on the Government in terms of revenue loss.
With more than 30,000 trucks from 16 associations joining the stir and halting mineral transportation, the Government’s royalty loss is estimated a whopping Rs 12 crore per day. More than five lakh workers and labourers at both mines and industries have been robbed of their wages. Yet, there seems to be lack of urgency to address the issue by implementing the uniform ceiling price for mineral transportation in the State.
Transport Minister Ramesh Chandra Majhi on Wednesday said the issue is being studied by the Transport Secretary. “The Transport Commissioner has submitted his report on freight rates to the Secretary. We are hopeful of notifying the new fare rates by July-end or August first week,” Majhi said.
The issue of rationalising mineral freight rates has been a contentious one even though a high-level meeting under the Chief Secretary on June 17 this year had decided to finalise the rates and enforce it within a month.
While the deadline of July 17 has been missed, trucks and tippers stopped transport operations since Sunday over a freight rate dispute with mines transport agencies and sponge iron manufacturing industries, which had pressed them for lowering prices.
The industries have argued that the rates charged by the truckers were unreasonable and needed to be regulated by a fair and competitive price fixation system. “The truckers are charging Rs 24 per km for one tonne while the price is not more than Rs 6 in other major mineral-bearing States like Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. The transportation rate alone has been contributing to a hike of Rs 500 in iron prices and affecting steel production,” industry sources said.
The truckers on their part also have expressed keenness to see a uniform freight rate in place. “Our strike is over the very cause only. We have demanded a rationalised price structure along with other issues like fixing a percentage of mineral transport by road,” Barbil Mining Area Truck Owners’ Association president Taranisen Mohapatra said.