BHUBANESWAR/ROURKELA: The 10-day truckers’ strike in the mining belts of Keonjhar and Sundargarh districts came to an end on Wednesday bringing huge relief to the industries, who were left gasping for breath due to halt in mineral transport.
The climb-down by the truck and tipper operators seems to have come in the light of the State Government move to invoke Odisha Essential Services (Maintenance) Act (ESMA) and terming the strike illegal.
The truckers, however, attributed the withdrawal to fruitful discussions with the Transport Minister Ramesh Majhi on the issue of freight fixation and Government assurance on continuing with old rates till the new freight is announced. Normalcy in mineral transport has been restored in both the districts, said general secretary, Odisha State Truck Owners Federation (OSTOF), Rabi Satpathy said.
An eight-member delegation, including Satpathy and members of four associations from Keonjhar and Sundargarh districts had met the Minister on Monday. The Minister assured that the uniform freight rate was only a matter of time as the technical committee has already given its recommendations. Collectors have been asked to resolve other local issues at their level by holding meetings with other stakeholders.
Barbil Mining Area Truck Owners’ Association president Taranisen Mohapatra said the strike had actually been called off on Tuesday night after Keonjhar district administration assured to continue the old freight rate.
Their Sundargarh counterparts did so on Wednesday morning before the ESMA was announced, said convener of 11 truck and tipper owners’ associations in Sundargarh Bijay Pradhan.
A five-point charter of demands was handed over to Bonai Sub-collector SK Meena which included continuing old freight rate, refrain transport agencies from charging ‘challan’ cost of `70 per tonne from truck owners and forcing truck owners to buy fuel from prescribed fuel stations, ensure immediate payment after unloading of materials and give equal transportation opportunities to all truck owners without any preference.
The truck operators, however, demanded prompt action against agencies who would try to ply on reduced freight rates.
The strike had not only serious affected industries and left lakhs of workers without livelihood but also inflicted a revenue loss to the tune of over `75 crore on the Government.