NEW DELHI - Striking Indian truckers and government officials met briefly on Thursday to try to end a four-day-old protest over fuel prices and taxes that has crippled freight movement nationwide but made no breakthrough.
"We'll meet again. This was the initial stage of talks. The dialogue will continue," transport minister B.C. Khanduri told reporters but gave no date when negotiations would resume.
Truckers' union leader J.M. Saksena said the strikers were ready to remain off the job until their 10-point set of demands were met. They include calls for stable fuel prices, immunity from a planned Value Added Tax, repeal of an order to scrap old trucks, an end to state toll fees and minimum freight rates.
"The strike will go on as long as our demands are not fulfilled," Saksena, secretary general of All India Motor Transport Congress (AITMC), the largest truckers' union with 2.7 million vehicles, told Reuters.
On Wednesday, Khanduri said detailed discussions were needed before a deal could be struck but the two sides had "no major disagreements".
The truckers, who carry the bulk of India's freight, went off the roads on Monday.
Many ports around the country have come to a virtually halt as a result of the strike. "Port operations have been badly hit since there's no inward and outward movement of cargo," said A.K. Joti, chairman of Kandla Port, one of the nation's busiest.
"Trucks are the lifeline for freight movement in India."
Local media reports have said the strike could cost businesses 20 billion rupees ($422 million) a day.
Some major firms, including India's biggest car maker, Maruti Udyog Ltd, a unit of Suzuki Motor Corp ., said it might suspend production as the strike had hit supplies.