New Delhi: Several truck and transporters’ associations have jointly announced that they will be protesting for a week beginning July 1 to demand insurance cover for all truck drivers. The truck drivers, the associations say, will honk the horns of their vehicles for one minute at 1 pm every day through the week, to symbolically register their protest and to demand that the government provide each truck driver with insurance cover.
The associations argue that truck drivers are ‘corona warriors’ and face the threat of getting infected in performing their job, which involves transporting essential goods. They have written to minister of road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari under the umbrella ‘Driver’s Life matters’.
“Sir, COVID is not going to end today or tomorrow. Though a remedy may be found soon, administering to the needy going to be a long-drawn process. So, our truck driver brethren are going to be exposed to this pandemic for a very long period,” a portion of the letter reads.
It goes on to argue that truck drivers should also be provided health risk cover in the light of COVID-19, like healthcare professionals have been provided. “Sir, you keep maintaining that transport is the backbone of our economy. Yet, this lapse of leaving truck drivers out of the risk cover ambit is a mystery,” the letter signed by Girish Mirchandani, convenor of ‘Driver’s Life Matters’, says.
Now truck drivers across the country will honk their horn at 1 pm every day for a week starting July 1, the letter notes, to register their protest.
The All India Transporters’ Welfare Association (AITWA) will be supporting the weeklong initiative. Its chairman Pradeep Singhal told The Wire that it had first pointed out to the government the need for insurance cover in March, a few days after the lockdown was imposed.
“But there has been absolutely no progress. We even said that we will share the cost. But nothing has happened for three months,” he said. “The government is simply not listening.”
Singhal explained that even now, truck drivers are reluctant to return to work due to the fear of getting infected. “Or their families don’t want them to join because of the risk of the virus. The drivers also fear what will happen to their families if something goes wrong. That is why it is essential that the drivers be provided insurance coverage for some sort of security,” he said.
Singhal also said that the truckers have asked the government to waive off road tax, permit cost and insurance charges for two months. “The vehicles were stranded for that period. So why should truckers have to pay for tax, permits and insurance when the trucks were not used? But again, the government has not done anything to provide relief.”
Even now, the AITWA estimates, the truck industry is only working at about 60% of its full capacity. “Only about 60% of industries and factories have opened up. So, we are not at full demand level,” Singhal said.
There are about eight million trucks in the country and according to the AITA about three million are still not in use as industrial activity is yet to come back to full capacity.