Stranded across States, truckers urge governments to help reach destinations

TE Raja Simhan Chennai | Updated on March 25, 2020

Truckers’ demands include deferment of EMIs and extension of insurance cover   -  Rajendra Gawankar

Thousands of drivers, assistants stuck on roads without food and water, says industry body; seeks broader aid package

It’s an SOS from the transport sector to the Centre as thousands of trucks carrying goods, including essential items, are stranded on the highways across the country as States sealed borders. The countrywide lockdown is bound to make the situation worse.

“Drivers and helpers are stranded on highways without food and water. They are facing acute anxiety and hardship. Urgent directions are required from the Centre to States to allow trucks reach their destination and to help the drivers,” said Kultaran Singh Atwal, President of All India Motor Transport Congress, the apex body of road transport sector. “We are getting distress calls from across the country about our truckers and drivers getting stranded on the highways,”Atwal said in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Please ensure food and water at tolls, checkposts to them,” he urged the Centre.

A video on the social media shows thousands of trucks parked bumber-to-bumper on the highways. “The States/Union Territories be directed to allow goods carrying vehicles into their cities so that there is no scarcity of food items, medicines and other essential goods,” he said.

The road transport sector is an essential services provider to the common man and lifeline of the nation. Trucks move 70 per cent of the nation’s goods by weight. It is highly unorganised with small operators with less than 10 trucks accounting for 85 per cent of the trucking population. More than 20 crore people are dependent on this sector, which is in deep distress.

“We request the government to consider deferment of EMIs by six months; Extension of validity of fitness, permit fees, road tax, goods tax, third party insurance, taxes be extended by six months and no penal action on expiry of E-way bill for goods in transit,” Atwal said.

Bal Malkit Singh, Chairman, a fleet operator in Mumbai and former President of AIMTC, said that officials in the borders are unable distinguish between essential and non-essential commodities. All vehicles are stopped. This will lead to law and order problem as local miscreants will start looting the vehicles that have valuable items, he said.

With most of the local markets closed in varios States, the trucks are unable to unload the cargo, he said. “The truck industry needs urgent intervention from both the Centre and States” he said.

GR Shanmugappa, a fleet operator in Bengaluru, and General Secretary of the South Zone Motor Transporters’ Welfare Association has written to chief ministers of southern states to allow trucks in to the States. Drivers and cleaners are suffering as they are stranded on the highways without food and water, he said.

But Puducherry government strictly did not allow any vehicle to enter except vehicles with essential commodities, said Sundarraj Ponnusamy, Advisor, South India Transport Association. It is the same situation across India, he added.

Published on March 25, 2020

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