Last month, the government increased fuel prices for the second time this year - to a 17 per cent overall increase - in the wake of soaring global fuel prices.

Lorry drivers say they are paying for the hike both at the pumps and through a new road tax.

The government appealed to the truckers to end the strike, but said it would be unable to accommodate most of their demands.

Growing woes

The strike will add to the woes of India's coalition government, which is already battling inflation that has soared to a 13 year high.

Television footage showed goods already beginning to pile up at farmers markets, docks and warehouses.

Divya Gopalan, Al Jazeera's correspondent in New Delhi, said: "Over the next few days the biggest impact will be felt. As engines stay off, supplies will run dry and the prices of food and other basic commodities will rise.

"It is a wake-up call for the government. They will come under even more pressure when the trucker's strike starts hitting ordinary people's pockets."

Thalikottai Rajuthevar Baalu, the transport minister, said on Wednesday that the increase in tolls and the taxes on diesel were needed to fund road construction and maintenance.

"Not much leeway is available with this ministry," he said.

The strike has affected nearly every state in India, with the exception of West Bengal, which has already exempted truckers from some of the taxes.