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Millions of Truckers in India Begin Strike


In India, millions of trucks have gone off the roads to protest rising operating costs triggered by higher fuel prices and rising taxes. As Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi, high oil prices are hurting India's economy.

Nearly five million trucks stopped throughout India. Truckers say the rising cost of diesel and taxes levied by the government are wiping out profits.

India has hiked petrol and diesel prices twice this year by about 17 percent, following the spiraling cost of crude oil in the international market.

Truckers want the government to reduce other taxes levied on them to compensate for the rising cost of diesel. For example, they are asking for a repeal of a hike in tolls gathered on highways.

A consultant to the All India Motor transport Congress, Pradeep Singhal, says it is becoming unviable to run trucks.

"The toll tax is increasing day by day and there is no mechanism to check how the toll tax is levied," he said. "There are many taxes which are levied in the name of development and road maintenance, so there is no need for raising the tax or levying new taxes."

Transportation minister T.R. Baalu says there is not much leeway to reduce taxes. He says the increase in tolls and taxes is needed to fund road construction and maintenance.

The government has appealed to the truckers to call off the strike, but the truckers have vowed to stay off the roads till their demands are met.

One round of talks with the government has failed, but more talks have been planned.

Trucks are a lifeline for India's economy, hauling nearly 70 percent of goods transported across the country. There are fears that a prolonged strike could lead to shortages and increase inflation, which is running at a 13-year-high of more than 11 percent.

India has been hit hard by surging oil prices because it imports more than two thirds of its fuel requirements, and analysts say the high economic growth the country has witnessed in recent years could slow.

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