Hardships of truckers amid lockdown

Transportation plays a significant role in any supply chain because products are rarely produced and consumed at the same location. Even though the Central Government has exempted transportation sector from restrictions but still daily movement of trucks has reduced to less than 30 percent of normal levels. Road transport accounts for about 60 percent of freight traffic in India. Trucking has emerged as a major choke-point in supply chains for everything from food to medical supplies as Governments are taking stringent steps to contain the pandemic, restricting the movement of vehicles and people who drive them as frequentofficial clarifications are issued causing confusion on the ground as it takes lots of time for the latest directives to trickle down to officials enforcingthe rules.
All India Motor Transport Congress have alleged extortion, corruption, misbehaviour and even FIRs on truckers all over India. Greed for quick money has just blinded the corrupt towards their duty to the people of the country in maintaining the essential supply chain. After GST implementation there is no role for check posts but corrupt officials always devise new strategies to make quick buck as check posts got re-established citing checking of overloaded vehicles and now passengers in trucks. At some places police has forced the truckers to carry migrant labourers. Then after few checkposts again inspection of such vehicles carrying passengers is done and in the name of illegally carrying passengers money is demanded,those not able to pay are detained and even FIRs lodged against them. Highhandedness can be gauged from the fact that even those carrying refinery products or urgent telecommunication or medical equipments with due DC permission are challaned, drivers beaten and documents taken. Without extortion money they are made to wait on borders for days together and those carrying perishable items have no other choice except to surrender to demands of officials. Every waiting day increases the cost of transportation which gets proportionally adjusted in end consumer pricing. Theft of truck tyres and batteries is routine affair now. With practically no food available on highways, no drinking water at stuck up places, no toilets, no medical help available, no mechanic/workshop available in case of breakdown in lockdown, things are simply too difficult beyond our imagination. Another major problem facedby truckers is loading and unloading because of shortage of labour. With little cash with them, lack of awareness of digital platforms make life more complicated in case of emergency and things are getting worse with each passing day as they have little practical knowledge of pandemic and their desperation to make money for family simply expose them to the COVID-19 as they are moving pan India including red zones. Once a while if they are lucky enough to come home, they are hounded for being carrier of Corona virus,get quarantined and another drama of harassment starts afresh.
Government has to devise a detailed plan for this most important pillar of deliveries if they want to maintain the essential supply chain, hold immediate workshops on roads to educate them, give instructions along with masks, details of food points, medical facilities and workshops.Make them aware of the importance of having a sticker/notice of essential goods pasted, how to maintain hygiene, sanitation and strictly follow social distancing norms while on transit.The driver and any other person accompanying the driver shall carry with them a valid Government identity proof and a letter from the company to be presented when asked for by any authority along with all other documents necessary in the normal course of transportation of goods. More than twenty crore people are directly or indirectly associated with this sector and Government has to resolve their issues at the earliest asIndia cannot afford another complication at this juncture in the shape of transporters strike as warning for nationwide strike from AIMTC has already been issued. Government has to take care of these unsung COVID-19 warriors as well.