About six lakh commercial vehicles kept off the roads across Karnataka Sunday in support of about 3,000 sand transporters, agitating since Dec 22 demanding more permits, release of lorries seized by the police and end to harassment of drivers at check-posts.
“The response to our three-week-long agitation has been overwhelming as movement of transport vehicles ferrying goods and people on intra- and inter-state routes came to a standstill,” Federation of Karnataka State Lorry Owners and Agents Association G.R. Shanmugappa told reporters here.
Even Andhra Pradesh Lorry Owners’ Association, Southern LPG Gas Tankers’ Association and Kerala and Pudicherry truckers’ associations joined the indefinite strike, affecting supply of essential commodities across the state.
Vehicles carrying perishable goods like milk, vegetables and fruits were exempted from the strike.
“Besides, more permits to transport sand for construction activity, our demands include setting up of more truck terminals, revision of overload limit, withdrawal of minimum qualification of eighth class pass for driving licence to commercial vehicles and freezing diesel prices,” Shanmugappa said.
Hundreds of trucks were seen parked on highways and on the outskirts of cities and towns, as drivers and cleaners staged demonstrations against the state transport department.
Thousands of passengers landing or departing from the Kempegowda International Airport at Devanahalli on the outskirts of Bangalore were also affected as about 4,500 taxis stopped operations since early Sunday morning.
Even tourists and commoners were left stranded as owners of private buses, maxi cabs and tempos refused to operate their vehicles.
“As the state government has not responded to our demands like parking space for taxis, housing sites and training schools, we have decided to join the strike,” Bangalore Tourist Taxi Owners’ Association general secretary Radhakrishna Holla said.
Meanwhile, state Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy urged Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to hold talks with the truckers’ and the sand lorry owners’ associations to resolve the agitation after prolonged parleys between the state transport officials and associations have failed.
“I have urged him (chief minister) to convene a meeting to sort out their issues as the lorry owners have agreed to abide by the new mining policy regulating permits but want withdrawal of police cases registered against them for transporting sand illegally,” Reddy said.