February 04, 2024

Transport Workers to Join Feb 16 Strike; Demand Repeal of MV Act Amendment

THE All India Road Transport Workers’ Federation has appealed to all the drivers and other stakeholders to make the one-day strike on February 16, demanding the repeal of MV Act Amendment- 2029, a success.

The All India Coordination Committee of Road Transport Workers organisations consisting of CITU, AITUC, INTUC, HMS, LPF, TUCI, AICCTU, have unanimously given a call for a one-day strike on February 16. The coordination committee has written letters to All India Motor Transport Congress and other operators organisations to support the strike.

The federation said that the Government of India replaced the Indian Penal Code (IPC) with Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita-2023(BNS). Under IPC section 304(a), a driver who is involved in a fatal accident will be imprisoned maximum of two years. However, in the new BNS, the section has been divided into two. While the first section awards five years imprisonment and a penalty for fatal accidents, the second section awards 10 years imprisonment and a fine in case of ‘hit & run’ cases. It is clear that the punishment in IPC is fairer than in the BNS. If these provisions are implemented, drivers could end up being in jails and not on the roads. These draconian provisions have to be withdrawn forthwith.

The transport workers' federation demanded that an amendment be brought to this extent in the current budget session of the parliament.

With this demand, all the federations functioning in the road transport sector have given a call for one one-day token strike on February 16, they said.

The federation pointed out that the government, after suspending 146 opposition MPs from the parliament, has passed the BNS without any discussion. This is the state of democracy in the ‘biggest democratic country’ in the world, the federation leaders lamented and said that the case of MV Act Amendment cannot be seen in isolation.

“This is in continuation of the attacks on the road transport sector and the workers and the people at large. The Modi-led government, immediately after coming to power in May 2014, brought the road safety bill with an aim to hand over the entire sector to the big corporate houses. Later, it was renamed as the MV Act Amendment and was passed by the parliament on July 31, 2019,” said the federation in a press release.

The amendment also enhances the punishment of the drivers many folds, claiming that by doing so, the accidents and the fatalities will be brought down. But the experience is rather the opposite. According to the records of the ministry of road transport, during the implementation of heavy penalties, the accidents and fatalities for the year 2022 have gone up. This clearly proves that merely enhancing the penalties without addressing the real causes contributing to accidents will not give the results, said the federation.

Earlier, it was mandatory to have two drivers on a national permit vehicle. The Modi government changed that rule and permitted it to operate with one driver neglecting the hours/days the driver has to drive. Further, there are many violations and deviations in the construction of the national highways which are causing accidents. Further, no facilities for long-distance drivers for rest, food etc are made, and all these are the failures of the government. Ironically, the drivers are made scapegoats, said the federation.

The federation highlighted that the government has adopted the vehicle scrapping policy. This aimed to burden and eliminate the petty owners on the one hand and to protect the sales and profits of the vehicle manufacturers on the other hand. Now the government is seriously emphasising and promoting electric vehicles which cost almost double the fuel vehicle cost. The diesel prices, the insurance premium and the toll charges have doubled during the Modi regime. The auto-rickshaw drivers are getting thousands of rupees in penalties as e-challans. All these are to serve the corporates and to hand over the sector to corporates, it said.

The workers in the road transport sector, particularly the unorganised road transport workers are not covered under any labour laws like PF, ESI, Gratuity, weekly day of rest etc. The harassment of police and transport officials has become the order of the day. These workers have no social security as the construction and beedi workers are having. Their working conditions are very deplorable. Further, the drivers are being ill-treated and manhandled by the police and transport officials.

Apart from the policies that are ruining the road transport sector, the policies of the government in other sectors, like the National Monetisation Pipeline, electricity bills, smart metres, etc, will burden the road transport workers heavily. The prices of all the essential commodities have skyrocketed during the Modi regime. Unless and until the retrograde policies of the government are stalled, the road transport sector and the workers will not survive, observed the federation.

Now, the time has come to fight against the anti-working class, anti-people and anti-national policies of the Modi regime, it said.

The Central Trade Unions and the Samyukta Kisan Morcha have given a call for sectoral and industrial strike and grameen bandh on February 16. The All India Road Transport Workers’ Federation appealed all the road transport workers and other stakeholders to make the strike a historic one. It also appealed the public to support the strike.

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