Over 70% of the estimated 1.20 lakh trucks, tempos and containers in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) remained off the roads on Monday, and the three-day strike is likely to impact the distribution of fuel and hit fruits and vegetables supplies in the coming days
Mumbai: Truckers, taxi and bus operators have started a nation-wide strike to oppose the provision of ₹7 lakh penalty and 10-year jail term for hit-and-run cases under the newly-passed Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita. The All India Motor Transport Congress says these provisions which have yet to come in force can lead to undue harassment, and must be recalled.
Over 70% of the estimated 1.20 lakh trucks, tempos and containers in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) remained off the roads on Monday, and the three-day strike is likely to impact the distribution of fuel and hit fruits and vegetables supplies in the coming days.
There are close to 1.50 lakh drivers of trucks, tempos and other heavy vehicles in MMR. According to All India Motor Transport Congress, 35% of the heavy vehicles plying carry essential commodities, including petrol and LPG. The truckers’ body pegs the losses accruing from one day’s strike at ₹120-150 crore in MMR alone.
Outside of MMR, in the rest of the country, the impact of the strike on day 1 was partially impacting Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal, Rajasthan and Bihar. Indore in Madhya Pradesh, Surat in Gujarat and Ambala in Haryana were some of the other cities where drivers’ protests were widely reported. In Punjab, at least 7 lakh trucks went off the road.
In Madhya Pradesh, transport unions claimed that around 10,000 private buses, trucks and taxis did not run on Monday impacting public transport in the state. In several districts such as Indore, Balaghat, Ujjain, Ratlam and Bhopal, long queues of vehicles could be seen at fuel stations as supplies started drying up towards the afternoon. At Dhar, drivers parked their trucks on the Mumbai-Agra highway and stopped private vehicles from going further while at Panna, bus and truck drivers blocked the National Highway-39.
JP Aggarwal, president of Ludhiana Goods Transport Association, warned that if the strike continued for another day, there would be fuel shortage. “Supply of vegetables, fruits and other essentials would be hit in the next few days,” he said.
Before the provisions announced under the newly-minted Bhartiya Nyaya Sanhita, the punishment for causing death by negligence was 2 years under section 304A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The truck owners’ association claims that regardless of culpability, in the case of an accident, it’s almost always the driver of the larger vehicle who is booked. One of the 500 truck drivers protesting at the highway at Vasai, Mangesh Patil, said, “This amendment is completely unfair. We also suffer grievous injuries in accidents but there is no one to intervene on our behalf.”
Terming the new provisions for enhanced punishment as “black law,” truckers say they will not load fuel or carry fruits and vegetables until the amendment is withdrawn. “The oil tanker drivers, for instance, say if they had ₹7 lakh with them, they would have bought their own vehicles and not remain drivers,” said Anan Sharma, president of the All J&K petrol tankers owners’ association and J&K fuel station owners’ association.
At least 1,500 tankers—800 with Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), 350 with Bharat Petroleum Corporation and 350 with Hindustan Petroleum Corporation replenish supplies in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
Other than the truckers staying away from work, there were also a few instances of violence and raasta roko (road blocks) across MMR on Monday. Roughly 500 transport drivers called for an impromptu raasta roko near Chinchoti on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Highway (NH48) causing a massive traffic jam that clogged the highway for over four hours.
Police at Naigaon, trying to restore order, were pelted with stones. Chakka jams were also reported from Kalamboli on the Sion-Panvel highway, and at Uran and Ulwe that lead to JNPT where protesting drivers reportedly threatened motorists to not proceed further. Several videos were sent out by motorists warning those heading towards Ulwe to not do so as private vehicles were being attacked.