Transportation bodies and transport workers’ unions have urged the central government to rescue the highly distressed transportation sector, which is reeling under deep financial crisis as various states have imposed curfews amid the raging second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Apex trade body, All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) estimates that transport operations have now decreased to about 70% and freights have seen a slashing of a third of the activities compared to earlier.
It has been reported that the “truck rentals on trunk routes plummeted 18-27% in April over March,” according to data from the Indian Foundation of Transport Research and Training (IFTRT).
After the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020, the road transport sector underwent an acute crisis until September last year, said Naveen Kumar Gupta, Secretary General of AIMTC.
“The movement of vehicles picked up in October last year which reached a recovery of about 70% in early March this year, but the sector was drastically hit again after restrictions and curfews were imposed in various states,” he said.
“The current scenario in the country has impaired the livelihood of the small operators in both cargo and passenger segments; the owners are financially crippled, as there is no source of earning yet they are forced to meet the establishment costs, payment of salaries, EMIs, maintenance, fitness, permit fees, taxes, insurance, parking fees and corruption, even though the vehicles keep standing,” AIMTC said in a press statement.
Transport vehicles are currently supplying essential and medical items while the non-essential items and e-commerce supply chains have almost been stopped in the country.
The trade body has requested the government to provide moratorium on EMIs and to ensure availability of soft loans without collateral and credit facility to transporters by banks and other financial institutions.
AIMTC has urged the government to issue strict guidelines to facilitate hassle and corruption free, and seamless movement of goods vehicles facilitated by by field enforcement officers. It is also demanding Covid-19 insurance, social security and priority vaccination for all the transport workers.
“There is reverse migration among drivers who are fearing for their lives and security of their families and it is difficult to keep them motivated and report to work,” said Gupta, adding that the rest of the work is being done amid the harassment and extortion still persistent on the roads and border check posts by enforcement officials, which is making drivers jittery to work.
The AIMTC also demanded the extension of validity of all documents, permits, E-way bills, licenses and insurance for financial year 2021-22.
“There is acute distress in the transport sector and if relief measures are not provided to it on an urgent basis then the present scenario will get further complicated. This will result in disruption of the supply chain of essential commodities, medicines and other project and industry intensive freight and peoples’ mobility,” said Kultaran Singh Atwal, President of AIMTC.
On April 30, All India Road Transport Workers Federation (AIRTWF) had written to Union minister Nitin Gadkari asking for free vaccination for all transportation workers and a financial assistance of Rs 7,500 per month for all unorganised sector transport workers in the country.