March 23, 2023

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Truck strike fuels food price hike fears in Calcutta

Vegetables, eggs, fruits, fish and other items can become costlier down the week following a three-day strike by truckers starting Monday. Thousands of trucks carrying essential items to the state have stopped on the way in response to the strike call.

Around 25,000 trucks enter the state from outside every day on an average and most are headed for wholesale markets in and around Calcutta. Members of the West Bengal Truck Operators’ Association said nearly 70 per cent of the trucks did not enter the city during the day, sparking fears that the prices of some essential items may go up.

“It has been nearly two years now that we have been asking the state government to allow trucks to carry more load in keeping with the revised norms of axle weight laid down by the ministry of road transport and highways,” said Subhas Chandra Bose, the general secretary of the association. “We have been forced to go on this three-day strike since the government is reluctant to accept our demand.”

The ministry had on August 7, 2018, revised the axle weight of transport vehicles and increased it by around 25 per cent to bring down incidences of overloading. Following the new directive, the Bengal government allowed new trucks to carry additional weight. But the older ones have not been given the permission to prevent wear and tear of roads.

Around this time of the year, Calcutta receives its supply of several vegetables other states.

“We receive around 90 tonnes of onions from Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh daily. Almost an equal volume of cabbages reach us from Maharashtra every day,” said Kamal Dey, of the West Bengal Vendors Association. “If trucks don’t reach the Calcutta markets, the impact will be felt from Tuesday.”

Rows of trucks came to a halt in Dankuni and Rishra (both in Hooghly), Basanti (South 24-Parganas) and Bongaon (North 24-Parganas).

Egg prices could also go north as a large part of the city’s daily supply comes from Andhra Pradesh. Egg traders said the supply-demand mismatch could result in the price inching towards Rs 8 a piece, up by a rupee per piece.

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