Truck­ers strike

For the gov­ern­ment to look into their de­mands, truck­ers went on a na­tion wide strike in July 2018.

Commercial Vehicle - - WHAT'S INSIDE - Story & pho­tos: Ashish Bha­tia and Azaan Amiri

For the gov­ern­ment to look into their de­mands, truck­ers went on a na­tion wide strike in July 2018.

This is not the first time that the na­tion’s truck­ers have gone on a strike. The last in­stance was in Oc­to­ber 2017 to think of the re­cent past. The All In­dia Mo­tor Trans­port Congress (AIMTC) called a two-day to­ken strike then, de­mand­ing that diesel be brought un­der the am­bit of GST for uni­for­mity of prices across the coun­try and fuel prices be re­vised ev­ery quar­ter rather than ev­ery day. The AIMTC also called upon the gov­ern­ment to look at the oper­a­tion of tolls and check posts. So, when trucks be­gan pil­ing up at var­i­ous trans­port na­gars across the coun­try on the night of July 19, 2018, it be­came clear that the in­def­i­nite strike called by the AIMTC had started. Be­gin­ning on July 20 and end­ing on July 28, the strike lasted a good eight days. An es­ti­mated 93 lakh truck­ers across In­dia par­tic­i­pated in the strike. Daily trans­port op­er­a­tions were af­fected. Only trucks that op­er­ated were those that trans­ported es­sen­tial com­modi­ties like veg­eta­bles, medicines, milk, etc. Claimed to have caused a na­tion­wide loss to the tune of

Rs.10,000 crores in just three days of the strike, the strike put the spot­light on the long stand­ing de­mands of the truck­ers.

Apart from fuel prices and toll costs (tolls have be­gun to ac­count for big spends af­ter fuel for truck­ers), the oth­ers de­mands of truck­ers like the spi­ralling in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums and har­ras­ment on the road by the au­thor­i­ties also came un­der the radar. The eight-day long strike got the gov­ern­ment to en­gage and con­sider the de­mands of the truck­ers. Sev­eral rounds of dis­cus­sions took place be­tween the gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and AIMTC rep­re­sen­ta­tives. The gov­ern­ment is said to have as­sured the truck­ers that they will look into the de­mands placed by them. Upon gov­ern­ment’s re­quest, the In­sur­ance Reg­u­la­tory De­vel­op­ment Author­ity of In­dia (IRDA) is claimed to have agreed to dis­cuss the de­mands put forth by the truck­ing body to re­view the third-party in­sur­ance pre­mium for heavy ve­hi­cles. The nodal agency for the in­sur­ance sec­tor is said to have en­gaged with trans­porters for the first time ever. Re­gard­ing toll, the gov­ern­ment, ac­cord­ing to AIMTC sources, has agreed to put in place a mech­a­nism that will en­sure seam­less move­ment of trans­port ve­hi­cles across toll plazas within six months. A com­mit­tee of road trans­port and high­ways min­istry will ex­plore the scope for im­prove­ment in­clud­ing the sug­ges­tions given by the trucker, men­tioned AIMTC sources.

Apart from the no­ti­fi­ca­tion of a national per­mit scheme for tourist ve­hi­cles (should profit buses and pas­sen­ger vans espe­cially) to fa­cil­i­tate seam­less move­ment across the coun­try, the gov­ern­ment was quick to an­nounce that it will ex­tend the va­lid­ity of ve­hi­cle fit­ness cer­tifi­cate to ev­ery two years rather than the cur­rent rule of one year. It was also quick to an­nounce new axle norms whose im­ple­men­ta­tion is sched­uled for Oc­to­ber. Said to have agreed to re­move dou­ble-driver re­quire­ment, to strictly en­force anti-over­load­ing norms and to bring uni­for­mity in height for all trans­port ve­hi­cles, the eight-day strike, ex­pressed a trans­porter on the con­di­tion of not re­veal­ing his name, has in­duced a lot of dam­age on them. The good de­vel­op­ment how­ever, he said, was that the gov­ern­ment had to take

se­ri­ous note of the trans­porters de­mands. Driv­ing past dis­rup­tions like de­mon­eti­sa­tion, which brought trans­porters down to their knees for al­most a week af­ter it was an­nounced, im­ple­men­ta­tion of GST and e-way bill, the trans­port in­dus­try in In­dia has been wit­ness­ing its busi­ness op­er­a­tions un­dergo a dras­tic change and the pain points shift.

As an af­ter­math of the eight­day strike, a high level com­mit­tee is ex­pected to be con­sti­tuted un­der the chair­man­ship of the sec­re­tary of the trans­port and high­ways min­istry to fa­cil­i­tate ex­pe­di­tious res­o­lu­tion of de­mands of the trans­port fra­ter­nity. The com­mit­tee will look into the de­mands ‘sym­pa­thet­i­cally’, and on is­sues re­lated to e-way bill im­ple­men­ta­tion, is­sues re­lated to GST, ra­tio­nal­i­sa­tion and or abo­li­tion of TDS rates, ra­tio­nal­i­sa­tion of rates for pre­sump­tive tax on trans­port ve­hi­cles, Direct Port De­liv­ery (DPD) at ports, and on any other is­sues that may arise in the first meet­ing of the com­mit­tee ac­cord­ing to a joint state­ment re­leased by the min­istry of road trans­port and high­ways and AIMTC. In the case of the e-way bill, it has been agreed, claimed an in­dus­try source, that there should be a dis­tinc­tion in the treat­ment of oc­ca­sional cler­i­cal er­rors and eva­sion. In the case of the former, a nom­i­nal fee could be levied. Ex­pected to ex­am­ine is­sues like these, the com­mit­tee would sub­se­quently make sug­ges­tions to the GST Coun­cil for an SOP for a uni­form has­sle-free im­ple­men­ta­tion. In the case of DPD, any re­stric­tive pro­vi­sions in the present pol­icy will be re­viewed, and the com­mit­tee shall rec­om­mend amend­ments to en­sure a fair and eq­ui­table par­tic­i­pa­tion.

Un­der the im­pres­sion that the gov­ern­ment and var­i­ous other bod­ies as well as or­gan­i­sa­tions are in­volved, the trans­port in­dus­try has gone back to work. It has be­gun do­ing what it does best, and al­biet with an af­ter­taste of the strike that has left them to make good the busi­ness that their clients have lost. They also have the chal­lenge of mak­ing good the losses they in­curred by ground­ing their trucks for a good eight days. Un­like many other sec­tors or seg­ments, the trans­port seg­ment has al­ways been the least glam­ourous. Even con­sid­ered opaque to an ex­tent, it is only af­ter talk­ing to trans­porters does it tran­spire that this is ac­tu­ally not the case. Bat­tling is­sues like low-wages, long pe­ri­ods away from home, sleep de­pri­va­tion, odd work­ing hours, road in­fra­struc­ture that is not the best, risk of as­sault or har­ras­ment, poor stay fa­cil­i­ties, etc., at a macro level, the trans­port in­dus­try for cer­tain de­serves bet­ter treat­ment. It needs to be re­spected the way other in­dus­try seg­ments are re­spected. This could be done by look­ing at their is­sues and help­ing them to re­solve it. The strike, it is clear, can’t be the an­swer.

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