Representational Image. Image Courtesy: Livemint
Truck operators in lakhs across India have gone on an indefinite strike from Monday demanding that the Centre squash new penalty rates under the amended Motor Vehicles Act, 2019. The nearly 80 lakh truck operators are represented by the Bhaichara All India Truck Operator Welfare Association.
The operators alleged that they have been forced to observe an indefinite strike to press for their demands, as the Narendra Modi government has turned its back on the issues faced by them.
Prior to the strike, on October 31, the transporters also staged a protest at Jantar Mantar where the decision to launch an indefinite strike was taken.
The road ahead for truck operators has never been easy. With the constant harassment from the traffic police officers and added charges that squeeze their earnings—the hurdles in their transportation business are many. However, with the BJP government bringing in amendments in the Motor Vehicles Act from September 1, it ended up being a case, as the truck operators call it, of rubbing salt into their wounds.
As if this was not enough, the Indian economy is in bad shape. The crisis that has plagued every arm of the industry has caused rippling effects on the transportation business as well, further making it difficult for the Indian truck operators to secure a livelihood.
“There’s an attack from all the sides and the government does not seem to pay heed to our demands,” Delhi’s committee President Tejpal told NewsClick, “Now, we are the ones with our back up against the wall and there’s nothing but to launch a strike.”
On September 24, the association also sent a memorandum to Nitin Gadkari, Union minister for road transport and highways, appealing him to consider their demands. The association received no response from the minister. Among others, the memorandum included demands that also touched upon issues relating to increasing pollution and rampant unemployment.
At first, the association demanded ‘training centres’ and a ‘three-month training programme’ for the drivers now joining the workforce after the Centre removed the minimum educational qualification mandatory for applying for a driver’s license.
The association also asked the government to do away with multiple plazas for the collection of toll taxes. According to the striking truck operators, issuance of a single token and clubbing all the charges such as entry fee levied on heavy vehicles while plying in other states among others will save jams at the plazas and also save diesel for the truck operators.
The truck operators also demanded a toll free number for registration of complaints of the operators catering to the truck industry that employs many and has been significant in the development of the nation as a whole.
“We, the operators, have been pushed to a do or die situation,” said Ashok Sharma, national president of the association, “and the government must not forget that we don’t drive just trucks, we drive the whole nation.”