Corona lockdown: Trucks stuck, drivers surviving on water

Nearly 500,000 drivers and helpers have been left high and dry across many state borders, according to estimates by the Indian Foundation of Transport Research and Training (IFTRT)

Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: social media)
Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: social media)

NH Web Desk

In a precautionary measure to combat the deadly coronavirus spread, the centre and the state governments have ordered complete lock down for 21 days.

Safety steps by the government may not be soothing for everyone and might affect them strongly.

According to a report in Business standard, nearly 500,000 drivers and helpers have been left high and dry across many state borders, estimates made by the Indian Foundation of Transport Research and Training (IFTRT) suggest.

Even the trucks carrying essential goods are not allowed to move or to cross the state borders following the government orders to seal the borders and check posts, the report suggested.

Business standard quoted twenty eight-year-old Mohammad Javed, driver of a truck carrying LPG cylinders as saying, “I started from Mangalore at 4 am today and have been at the border check post of Hubli since 1 pm. The police officers stationed here are not allowing me to go ahead and they thrash me when I request them to let me go. They are not even willing to talk. I have been surviving only on water and even that is over.

There are at least 25 to 30 trucks loaded with LPG cylinders which are marooned in that area, Javed added.

Suresh Khosla, partner at Shri Anand Transport Agency, which employs Javed, told Business Standard that he’s in touch with the Federation of Bombay Motor Transport Operators for the release of the trucks on an urgent basis.

The company is into transporting essential bulk commodities, but it’s a challenge to continue with the business as all entry points to Maharashtra have been shut due to coronavirus, Khosla points out, according to the report.

“The biggest challenge we are facing is with all the dhabas and restaurants being shut, the drivers have no option but to starve. The loading location provides food but enroute no dhabas are open,” says a person associated with the business.

With the drivers being stuck at the borders their families are anxious about their return because even vehicle repair is also difficult during this lockdown in case their vehicle breaks down on the way.

Business Standard quoted Balmalkit Singh, chairman of All Indian Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) as saying, “There’s been a ripple effect with the plight of the hapless drivers stuck at the borders reaching their co-workers. They are now refusing to report to work.”

“With no food or requisite infrastructure in sight, they don’t want to leave home.” The delays are also because of the confusion regarding what is essential and what’s non-essential. “Everything has come to a standstill,” he added.

In a conversation with Business Standard SP Singh, senior officer at IFTRT said, “There is a large exodus of drivers from the loading points. They are rushing home. Some 250,000 to 300,000 drivers have already left for their native places after handing over the keys to their owners.”

“We have been asking the government for a bailout package. Owners are not able to help in anyway. They (drivers) are facing a lot of hardship. Most of them are not on the payrolls of the transporters and are on minimum wages,” Singh added.

The nationwide lockdown has made it difficult for daily wagers as well as small scale companies to survive in this massive economic slowdown. Amid the lockdown the demand of essential good has also been raised and manufacturers of various goods are scrambling to keep pace.

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