Coronavirus (COVID-19): Assurances by Prime Minister Narendra Modi about supply chain constraints “continuously being removed” notwithstanding, transporters across much of the country continue to run into speed-bumps on inter-state highways.
Truck owners have reported that less than 10 per cent of the over 90 lakh goods carriage vehicles are currently plying on the roads, with several hundred stranded at state borders as well as warehouses and godowns, loaded with items worth around Rs 40,000 crore waiting to be unloaded. These items include grains, pulses, other farm produces, motor parts, textile goods, paper, electrical goods, etc.
Addressing the nation on Tuesday, the PM said the countrywide lockdown was being extended till May 3 and that “the country has ample reserves of medicines, food-ration and other essential goods; and supply chain constraints are continuously being removed.” The government will issue detailed guidelines about the extended lockdown on Wednesday, he said.
Earlier this week, Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla wrote to state chief secretaries pointing out that it had come to his ministry’s notice that in some parts of the country, trucks carrying essential and non-essential goods were being detained, in addition to workers needed for operation of manufacturing units of essential goods and other exempted categories not getting authorisations for their movement.
“Empty trucks/goods carriers should also be allowed to operate while on way to pick up goods, or returning after completing a delivery. Hence, there is no cause to stop empty trucks provided they have valid documents, such as driving licence and road permit, etc,” Bhalla noted in his letter, adding that local authorities should actively facilitate the movement of truck drivers.
Kultaran Singh Atwal, president, All India Motor Transport Congress, said that even after communications from the Home Ministry, authorities at the ground level were not honouring the Centre’s requests. “If such scenario persists, scarcity of essential supplies is inevitable. Drivers who are behind the wheels on date carrying essential or non-essential supplies or empty vehicles must be assured to reach their destination without any hassles,” he said.
“The conditions are similar in almost every part of the country. Northern region is comparatively better than others and eastern region is the worst, especially Assam, Jharkhand and Telangana, etc,” Atwal pointed out when asked about the pockets of the country, where truckers were facing most issues.
He also raised the issue of truckers getting their contracts cancelled by government and private agencies. “After the Hon’ble PM’s address today, there is renewed concern in the transport sector regarding its sustenance. The Hon’ble PM has appealed to the corporate and public sector enterprises to cooperate in this hour of crisis by taking care of the workforce and their dependent stakeholders … the corporates and PSEs should honour their existing work contracts as livelihood of many others depends on anticipated work,” Atwal said.
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