Goods like new cars, bikes, motorcycles, TV, refrigerators, AC, etc worth Rs 35,000 crores is now stuck on the road
The 21 day national lockdown as announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been followed by all states in India with borders shut. This lockdown announcement was made on March 24 with only 4 hours notice which caught transporters and truck drivers off guard. This extended lockdown and the present uncertain scenario in the country has particularly hit the road transport fraternity who have been left stranded on the highways without food, water and any sort of sanitation facilities.
According to an estimate, there are around 3.5 lakh interstate trucks carrying goods amounting to around Rs.35,000 crores. These trucks are stranded either on the roads, outside factories and godowns and are carrying goods such as cars and SUVs, two wheelers and other white goods like ACs, washing machines, TV sets, refrigerators and items such as chemicals, steel and cement. The trucks carrying these items are not nearly at as much risk as those carrying perishable goods such as poultry, eggs, grain and vegetables.
The plight of the truckers is something to be noted. Apart from being left stranded without the basic necessities, the truckers are also afraid of decay and damage to goods and pilferage for which they will be held accountable. There is also the dearth of food and water to contend with while money is scarce.
Highway dhabbas, which are also few and far between, are taking advantage of the situation and charging exorbitant rates which the truck drivers and cleaners cannot afford due to shortage of money. The situation is such that many helpers and cleaners have also run away abandoning the trucks. This lack of support staff would prove a problem as there would be no one to help upload the goods once the lockdown is lifted and the good arrive at their destinations. Most drivers are surviving on food supplied by volunteers running community kitchens at various places.
A truck driver Jitendra Tiwari, 27, who drove his consignment from Bihar, has stated that drivers are living in abysmal conditions and forced to sleep in an 8×8 feet cabin with no facilities of toilet or water. Along with Tiwari there are many more drivers who have been forced to live in similar conditions with no hope in sight in the immediate future.
The Road transport system in India accounts for around 60 percent freight traffic and Kultaran Singh Atwal, President of All-India Motor Transport Corporation (AIMTC) stated that trucks carrying essential goods such as food, medicines and sanitation have been allowed to travel.
Naveen Kumar Gupta, secretary general of AIMTC stated that though the Government has allowed movement of essential and non-essential goods, the situation is very different at ground level. Officials have been stopping trucks at various check points which are a few kilometers apart and they were only allowed to proceed if the owners produced government circulars and notifications.