Starting from Monday midnight a large number of private buses, auto rickshaws, taxis, freight vehicles, state-owned buses -- all have gone off roads as part of the one-day-long national strike call of the All India Co-ordination Committee of Road Transport Workers Organisation. With this 24-hour strike, the transport body is demanding the withdrawal of the proposed Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Bill.
“The strike is to mark our protest against the retrograde provisions of the Motor Vehicle (Amendment)Bill and continuous hike in the prices of the petroleum products,” K.K.Divakaran, national general secretary of All India Road Transport Workers’Federation (AIRTWF) which is affiliated to CITU, told Newsclick.
The Bill which is pending approval in the Rajya Sabha had already been passed in the Lok Sabha on April 10, 2017. Though the unions have been opposing the proposed amendments in the Bill that will help the corporates and dilute the power of the state governments, the BJP-led Centre continues to take a stand in support of the Bill.
Along with this, the unions and workers also demand minimum wage and social security benefits for the workers in the unorganised sector and the scrapping of the abnormal hike in the transport department charges- license, renewal, fitness- which had been implemented by the Ministry of Road Transport from December 29, 2016. Concerns over the increasing third-party premium are also being raised during the strike.
Barring the Bhartiya Janata Party-backed Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), all the other trade unions including CITU, AITUC, INTUC, AICCTU, HMS,among others have takenpart in the protest. Along with the central trade unions, various associations such as vehicle owners’ association, spare parts dealers’ association, an association of workshop owners etc.,have come up in solidarity with the protest.
In Kerala, all the private buses, state-owned KSRTC buses, auto rickshaws, taxis and freight vehicles have gone off roads since Monday midnight. Even all workshops and spare parts’ shops have remained closed, turning the strike into a strong message against the Centre and its policies.
In Tamil Nadu, all the unions except unions affiliated to AIADMK came up in solidarity with the protest. A considerable number of vehicles have stayed off roads. Nearly 1.5 lakh auto rickshaws were among the protesters in the state. Unions like AIRTWF and Labour Progressive Federation of Transport Workers which is affiliated to DMK have led the strike within the state.
In Haryana, the state-owned Haryana Roadways buses have stayed off roads in solidarity with the national strike against the proposed Bill that will destroy, if it gets passed, the Public Sector Transport system. More than 4,000 buses in the state which operate within the state as well as outside the state remained off roads.
The roadways workers who protested under the banner of Haryana Roadways Karamchari Joint Action Committee held protest marches at various places across the state. The protesters have also opposed the state government’s decision to launch 700 private buses in the state which will slowly lead to the privatisation of the transport department. The workers have, however, demanded that the government should increase the number of buses under the roadways department instead of allowing private buses.
Meanwhile, Karnataka witnessed a mixed response to the strike. In Bengaluru, the auto rickshaw drivers remained off roads till 6 P.M. Private cab unions and a section of state-owned Karnataka Road Transport Corporation workers also took part in the protest.
Nearly two lakh commercial vehicles have gone off roads in Odisha. Earlier, Janardan Patil of All Odisha Transport Workers’ Federation, one of the leading unions in the state, said: “The strike opposes the arbitrary amendments to the Motor VehiclesAct. The rules are meant to support insurance and private companies.” All Odisha Taxi and Auto rickshaw Association has also extended support to the national strike.
On the other hand, Communist Party of India (Marxist) has come up in support with the striking workers across the country. “The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) extends its support to the one-day national strike call against the retrograde provisions of the Motor VehiclesAct(Amendment)Bill and the continuous rise in the prices of petroleum products. The demands raised by the All India Co-ordination Committee of Road Transport Workers Organisations are genuine and the government must favourably consider their proposals.”
The party had also urged the BJP-led Centre to “accept their genuine demands and not to put the economy and the general public in the grave discomfort that will be caused by this strike.”