INDIA'S TRUCKERS DENY STRIKE IS CRUMBLING

INDIA'S TRUCKERS DENY STRIKE IS CRUMBLING

India's long-haul truckers Monday dismissed as propaganda government reports that their 12-day strike, which has virtually closed major ports, was

weakening.

Government officials said some truckers were going back to work in three of India's 25 states and goods were moving across state lines again.But the All-India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC), the umbrella organization for 1.8 million striking truckers, dismissed the reports as propaganda.

"This is only in the government's imagination," S.P. Singh, an AIMTC spokesman.

"Some local trucks are on the roads but they are not taking goods across state borders. How could they get the goods to transport when all the booking offices are closed?"

The government has opened some of its own offices where people desperate to shift goods around the country can go to book transport.

It also has told state governments to arrest truckers, requisition their vehicles and provide police protection to drivers willing to work. More than 900 truckers have been detained so far, according to the AIMTC.

The strike against a sharp increase in license fees is the second by the truckers in little over a month.

Trucks were seen on the roads of the eastern state of Orissa Monday, but Mr. Singh said these were 250 vehicles seized by the government and driven by government employees.

In the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, where the government earlier said some truckers were going back to work, the strike was still solid, senior officials said.

In Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, drivers of small trucks

went back to work Monday because they could no longer afford to keep their vehicles idle, government officials said in the state capital of Lucknow.

They admitted that most interstate truckers were still on strike, but said the state administration was holding talks with them in hopes of finding a solution to their demands.

A stoppage in August against road tolls and taxes, and the corruption the AIMTC alleged went with their collection, ended when the federal government promised to persuade state administrations to abolish them.

The government then raised annual truck license fees from nearly $50 to $160, saying the hike was needed to compensate the states for the loss of revenue from the tolls and taxes.