Lockdown leaves transporters stranded

AM Jigeesh New Delhi | Updated on April 02, 2020

Truck drivers, petrol pump workers stuck on State borders claim police harrassment

With trade unions receiving close to 200 distress calls from stranded truck drivers and their assistants, along with petrol pump workers and motor workers stuck on highways, the crisis for an estimated 10 crore workers in the transport sector needs urgent intervention by allowing at least ₹5,000 as an immediate relief.

KK Divakaran, General Secretary of All India Road Transport Workers’ Federation, a federation of about 500 unions of transport workers across the country, told BusinessLine that the union is intervening on a daily basis to help the drivers and cleaners stranded at various highways. “We hear a number of complaints that, despite specific guidelines, the police is harassing truck drivers who are transporting essential goods. We have raised this with various State governments but the solutions are slow,” said Divakaran.

Leader of transport workers in Bihar, Rajkumar Jha, said that his union has held several meeting including with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi on the plight of truck workers.

“There are about 1.8 lakh trucks in Bihar. Each truck employs at least two workers. They are the lifeline of the State, but are neglected in this crisis,” said Jha.

Police harrassment

Leader of the motor workers in Haryana, Ram Asray Yadav, said that even the government-run Haryana Road Transport Corporation’s employees faced police harassment in UP when they taking the migrant workers back to their home State. “Thousands of trucks are stuck at the borders of Punjab, Delhi and Rajasthan. I get calls from drivers and workers even asking food. It is such a pathetic state of affairs as this lockdown was announced without any preparation,” said Yadav.

Former senior fellow of VV Giri National Labour Institute MM Rehman said the Centre should formulate an immediate relief plan for these workers.

“Most of them are in the unorganised sector. They are drivers, conductors, cleaners, helpers, petrol pump workers… They will be hit hard because of the lockdown as they are not regular workers, they do not have any substantial social security schemes such as welfare boards. At this juncture they have to be specifically helped either by the unions or by the government through unions or any other agencies so that they do not suffer,” said Rehman.

Demand for special fund

He added that some owners of trucks also work as drivers. “After the lockdown, truck drivers are stuck at various highways. They require immediate help. Earlier, we had suggested a special fund for them. 90 per cent of them are daily wage earners, casual and contract employers. Even in the government sector, many public transport corporations have made their appointments into contract.”

He added, “They must be immediately given minimum income of at least ₹5,000 through their bank accounts, along with food grains. All central trade unions have federations for motor workers. The Centre should take the help of trade unions so that the help reaches to genuine people.”

Published on April 02, 2020

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