TN: ‘Stop Overloading Our Vehicles’ Say Sand Lorry Operators
Representational use only.Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Chennai: All M-sand and River Sand Lorry Owners’ Federation gave a call for an indefinite strike on August 18 seeking action against overloading of vehicles
About 20,000 sand lorries stayed off the roads in nine districts of Tamil Nadu as part of their protest.
To transport more than permissible limits extracted in the quarries, operators are forced to overload their vehicles.
Opposing this, sand lorry owners have held several protests in the past year. State Minerals and Mines Minister Duraimurugan earlier promised to consult district collectors and release circulars to check illegal mining, but no action was taken.
The federation claimed that police and government officials are hand-in-glove with quarry owners, and thereby corruption has to be checked if the overloading of lorries has to stop.
The protest was called off after leaders of the federation met Chief Minister MK Stalin and were assured that action would be initiated.
Tamil Nadu recorded the highest number of accidents on National Highways (NH) in 2020. Overloaded vehicles and vehicles with loads protruding accounted for 6.7% of total accidents, 7.9% of deaths and 7.2% of the injured in 2020.
S Yuvaraj, president of Tamil Nadu Sand Lorry Owners Federation, said at a press meet that “due to overloading lorries, buses and all other vehicles there are continuous road accidents. Tamil Nadu has a large stretch of national highways, and 55% of road accidents occur there”.
He said “year after year the number of vehicles keeps rising, but the officials who inspect these are not increasing. There is a scarcity of officials in the transport department because of rampant corruption, and that is a cause for accidents.”
Yuvaraj alleged that “new officials, RTOs, inspectors are not recruited because the existing officials do not want to share their bribe. There are 286 vacancies in the department. In each RTO there should be four to six inspectors, but there are only two in each of them”, he told the media.
Demanding strict action against those going against the CM’s ‘accident-free Tamil Nadu’ initiative, he blamed sand quarry crusher owners who overload lorries above the sanctioned limits, and the police, transport and minerals & mines department officials who protect them.
The ‘Accident-free Tamil Nadu’ campaign was initiated with the announcement of the ‘Innuyir Kaapoom-Nammai Kaakkum 48’ scheme in December 2021. According to the scheme, the state government is to bear the expenses of emergency care for accident victims for the first 48 hours.
The federation also demanded that the government should file cases against quarry owners who force lorry drivers to overload vehicles and also terminate their permits.
Sand lorry unions also demanded that the mineral and mines department should inspect all the quarries in Tamil Nadu and shut down those that are functioning illegally.
Speaking to mediapersons, Chella Rajamani, president, Tamil Nadu Sand Lorry Owners Association, said: “A quarry might have permission to extract only 500 units, but they produce 1,000 units of sand and would not have the transit pass to transport 1,000 units, thereby overloading lorries.”
Under present circumstances, sand lorry operators have expressed their inability to work within the protocols.
Rajamani said” “We have to pay GST (Goods and Sevices Tax) if we carry more than two units, and a lorry can carry three units, so we pay the tax for one unit and legally transport resources”.
“The lorries that pay bribes to the police are allowed to pass. But those that carry resources within legal limits are targeted and arrested on false charges,” he added.
In its appeal to the government, the federation alleged that no case has been filed against quarry owners who force them to carry more load. Instead, lorry drivers and owners are being arrested for overloading.
About 500 lorry drivers and owners had been arrested in the last four years in the areas surrounding Chennai alone, it said.
‘CHECK LOSS OF REVENUE’
Lorry operators said they were deeply affected by corruption and the competitive market and were unable to carry their trade without hassles.
The federation wanted the state government to launch an e-way bill system similar to that in other states to put an end to illegal mining and stop the misuse of manual bills. This would also prevent loss of revenue to the public exchequer.
“The minister said the government gets revenue of Rs 11,000 crore annually from the department. This is very low. If all the illegal activities are checked, the government will get an added Rs 25,000 crore," said Rajamani.
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