In an attempt to coerce the government to rescind the recently amended Motor Vehicle Act, which hiked fines for traffic offences manifold, transporters including those of RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh have come together to demand redressal for their concerns. They have threatened to go on a strike on September 19.
The members of 41 transport associations under the banner of United Front Transport Association (UFTA) submitted a memorandum of their demands at the office of the transport minister Nitin Gadkari.
“He was not there, so we could not meet him. We were told that he is likely to be in Delhi on September 16. We will attempt to meet him on that day and then depending on the result of the meeting, we will take a decision on the strike,” said Harish Sabharwal, UFTA chairman.
The UFTA has stated that commercial vehicle operators are passing through a bad phase due to economic uncertainties, exorbitant taxation, rampant corruption by traffic police and RTOs and have questioned the motive behind hiking the fines.
“The government has failed to implement and deliver on the ground. Instead of pulling up the erring government official for corruption, they are punishing the poor operators by levying such unviable penalties. These fines are neither viable, nor reasonable. It’s not ethical either,” said Sabharwal. The traffic police are looking for ways to extort truckers and this will only help them, observed Sabharwal.
The government has to follow a transparent system. “How can the government impose fines applicable in Western countries in India when we don’t have an efficient system. Let there be a scientific evidence system for fining a motorist. It must not be arbitrary.
There is a Supreme Court order passed in 1997 which states that only flying squads headed by officials of the ACP/SDM rank can issue challans. Moreover, these squads can land on the road only when it is fully equipped with gadgets to record the entire movement to avoid corruption and harassment on roads. This is one of our four demands,” said Sabharwal.
“We are frustrated with the government. It is true that we all voted Modiji to power, but who thought he would take away our livelihood. What Gadkariji did was not right. He should have thought about us. These fines are exorbitant. We will lose our livelihood,” said Rajinder Soni, UFTA vice president. He is also the vice president of Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh and represents the union of autorickshaws and taxis in Delhi.
Neither the government nor the Insurance Regulatory Authority of India have clarified if the insurance liability has been capped at Rs 5 lakh as per Section 154, 147, 162 and 160 of the New Motor Vehicle Act.
“This is nothing but aiding the insurance companies. Why is the government aiding companies instead of us? If there is a cap on the liability, it will throw us of the roads. If a person has a third-party insurance and the case is in court.
What happens if the court states that Rs 45 lakh compensation or even Rs 10 lakh compensation has to be paid by the driver. Then none of us can run a business. We have taken an insurance so that they will pay. Why should we pay the full amount, if the companies are getting a better deal,” asked Sabharwal.
The third of their demands is the unreasonable increase in presumptive income tax. According to the amended IT Act, the calculation of the tax will be based on laden weight plus the weight of the empty vehicle. It was increased to Rs 1,000 per ton per vehicle. The members of UFTA was this to be reconsidered.
The Union has also asked the government to implement social security schemes for drivers and their families of commercial vehicles as was committed by the government.
In solidarity with UFTA, Shyamlal Gola of State Transport Authority Operators Ekta Manch assured that if a strike is called on September 19, none of the Delhi state buses will be operational. “This is for all of us. We have to stand together at this hour. All of us will be on strike and no Delhi state bus will operate,” said Gola.