At the call of the All India Coordination Committee of Road Transport Workers (AICCORTWO), on Wednesday,August 5, public and private transport workers observed a national protest day across states amid government restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The protests have been successful in Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand, where organised and unorganised sector workers held various protest demonstrations despite crackdown by police forces in several states,” said KK Divakaran, General Secretary of All India Road Transport Workers’ Federation.
“Workers in the road transport industry were already in crisis prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic added to their problems and the industry has virtually collapsed due to lockdown,” said Divakaran while adding that the demands put forward will benefit 10 crore workers in the road transport industry.
Last month, AICCORTWO notified the Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari, about the protest call in pursuance of their 12-point demands including withdrawal of enhanced excise duty on diesel and petrol and rollback of increased prices since June 7; bringing petroleum products under Goods and Services Tax; separate social security law for road transport workers; withdrawal of Motor Vehicle (amendment) Act 2019; national wage policy for unorganised sector transport workers; budgetary support to state road transport undertakings (STUs); exemption of STUs from excise duty and sales tax on diesel and motor vehicle parts; electric buses only for STUs and income support of Rs 7,500 to all unorganised sector transport workers for six months period.
“Due to the Ram Mandir Issue, entire Assam has been under strict lockdown due to imposition of Section 144 of Cr.P.C. As such, the protest demonstrations were observed in Guwahati and Bongaigaon,” said Divakaran, talking about the various protests across the country.
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“The STUs across states are facing financial crunch due to spiraling cost of operation, illegal operation of private carriages, among other reasons. In such a situation, the workers are becoming scapegoats with reduction of manpower and consequent increase in workload, non-payment or delayed payment of wages and retirement dues and deferment of Dearness Allowance till March 2021,” stated AICCORTWO.
K Raji Reddy of Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) Employees Union said that the state police had detained several workers in Hyderabad while workers and employees had protested in front of all bus depots in Telangana.
AICCORTWO includes unions affiliated to central trade unions such as National Federation of Indian Road Transport Workers, All India Road Transport Workers Federation, Indian National Transport Workers Federation, Maharashtra State Transport Kamgar Sanghatana, Labour Progressive Federation, Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) Workers Unity Centre, Telangana Mazdoor Union, Tamilnadu Government Transport Corporations Staff Federation, and Sarva Karmachari Sangh.
The protest has also been joined by app based transport workers working with Uber, Ola, Swiggy and other apps in major cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad.
Supporting the demands put forward by transport workers’ unions, Shaik Salauddin, General Secretary of Indian Federation of App-based Transport Workers, said, “The app based drivers and delivery workers have been on roads during and after the lockdown. They do not have any social security benefits. The government must understand the grievances of over 25 lakh app-based workers and provide social protection to them.”
Trade unions have held numerous protests against the recent petrol and diesel price rises while the transport workers have been demanding the withdrawal of Motor Vehicle (amendment) Act 2019.
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