THE strike by road transport workers on August 7 was very successful. More than three crore workers participated in the historic strike. In many states, workers and associations out of the purview of the All India Coordination Committee of Road Transport Workers’ (AICCRTW) also joined the strike. In some places where strike could not be organised due to various reasons, protest actions were undertaken. Support and solidarity from various quarters was expressed. The All India Transport Department Technical Officers Association, Kerala NGO Union and All India Confederation of Goods Vehicle Owners Association expressed solidarity to the strike and staged demonstrations. The All India Road Transport Workers’ Federation (AIRTWF) expressed sincere thanks to all who have participated and supported the strike.
The AICCRTW organisations – a broad platform of all national transport workers federations associated with CITU, AITUC, INTUC, HMS, LPF, UTUC, TUCC, AIUTUC, AICCTU and independent state organisations of road transport undertakings, private bus/mini bus, auto, taxi, light vehicles, goods transport, driving school, spare parts shops, automobile workshops, petrol pumps, used cars and vehicle owners associations, gave the call for the national strike on August 7. The main demands were withdrawal of the Motor Vehicles Act (Amendment) Bill, 2017; reduction in prices of petrol and diesel, enhanced transport service charges and third-party insurance premium; safeguarding of state transport undertakings with financial assistance; protection of all stakeholders of road transport; enactment of a social security act for the unorganised road transport workers, etc.
In Bihar, the strike evoked a chain reaction. The transport union approached the leadership of middle-class employees and advocate associations with a request to support the strike. These organisations took a decision not to drive any vehicle on the day of the strike. Thereby, a good number of motorcycles and private cars did not come on roads. In Madhya Pradesh, the state CITU leadership published handbills and posters duly giving phone numbers of the people to be contacted and distributed across the state. From Bhopal, Jabalpur and other parts, many people contacted and requested for more handbills and posters. Thus, the strike became a success. Such experiences are there in other parts too. This proves that if the oncoming danger is explained well, the concerned will respond positively.
The strike was total in Kerala, Bihar, Odisha, Pondicherry, Assam and Jammu and Kashmir. In Bihar, petrol pump workers also went on strike. In West Bengal, more than 80 percent workers went on strike, except in Kolkata. In six districts, Trinamool Congress workers also joined the strike after creating a division in their union. In Tamil Nadu, the strike was total in private sector and 60 percent of state transport undertaking (STU) workers went on strike. In Madhya Pradesh, there was a total strike in 30 districts and partial in other districts. In Haryana and Uttarakhand, the STU buses were off the road. In Telangana, the strike was total in STU and 75 percent workers in private sector participated in the strike. In Andhra Pradesh, the auto, taxi and lorry workers participated in the strike in 13 districts. Paradeep port was stopped up to 12 noon fully as all the trucks, trailers, tankers and buses were stopped as the workers participated in the strike.
There was partial strike in Tripura, Punjab, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. In Sikar and Jaipur, auto-workers went on strike. In Jharkhand, there was strike in eight districts. In Delhi, about 25 percent autos went on strike. In Chhattisgarh, there was strike in five districts. The BMS workers also participated in the strike in some states.
The road transport industry, which is serving the people of our country in different ways, is facing serious crises. The workers, owner-cum-drivers, small owners won’t get any benefit/support from the Modi government. The central government brought the M V Act (Amendment) Bill 2017, which will eliminate crores of single vehicle owners and workers to handover the industry to Indian and foreign corporates.
Against the previous retrograde Road Transport Safety Bill 2014, the transport workers went on a one-day strike on April 30, 2015 for the first time since the Independence. More than two crore workers participated in that strike. After that, the government changed the name as M V Act (Amendment) Bill duly withdrawing some sections and modifying the proposed penalties. But the main intention of handing over the sector to big corporate houses remained unchanged. Continuous struggles took place against that including two strikes on September 2 in 2015 and 2016. In the present strike, more than three crore workers have participated and many new sections joined.
The strike was organised successfully at the initiative of the All India Road Transport Workers’ Federation. The workers and small petty owners joined together to meet the new challenge posed by the BJP government. The strike was victorious with experiences. This has to be continued to fight against the neo-liberal policies. Intensive campaigns were organised at grassroots level by leaders and workers. Lakhs of leaflets printed in regional languages with sector wise and regional demands were distributed among all workers and family members. District/state conventions, vehicle jathas, torchlight demonstrations were held prior to the strike to popularise the demands. This evoked good response from workers and common people. Workers associated with independent unions and having no union actively participated in the strike in a big way. In MP where there is no union, the CITU state committee played prominent role to make the strike successful.
Lessons from Strike
1) The united strike by road transport workers and owners of buses and trucks under a common platform is a landmark in the history of road transport sector that ensured Rajya Sabha did not pass the M V Act (Amendment) Bill 2017. It helped to unify opposition parties to defeat the anti-worker and anti-people policy of the BJP government and more vigorous united agitations are to be continued. United struggles could defeat wrong policy decisions.
2) Instead of ritual agitations, the united strike was an agitation of common people with common demands. For this, campaigns were organised at grassroots level. The broad platform of workers and owners for a common cause was formed and it has to be formed in all states.
3) Work is on to fulfill the slogan of reaching the unreached. In India, the unionised workers are around 30 lakhs in this sector. We approached a good number of workers and common people and more than three crore workers actively participated in the strike.