The change at the political level in Talwandi Sabo has been pushing the district administration, authorities of Guru Gobind Singh oil refinery at Rama Mandi and independent transporters into a corner as the Rama Mandi Truck Union has emerged as a powerful body after the recently-held byelection, in which Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu of the Shiromani Akali Dal emerged as the winner.
The truck union allegedly forced the deputy commissioner of Bathinda to hold an 'unofficial' meeting on Saturday to settle its claims regarding the transportation of the goods from the refinery.
If president of the truck union Gurlabh Singh is to be believed, then, from now onwards, the union will have the first right to transport the goods out of the oil refinery.
According to Gurlabh, a decision to this effect was taken at the 'unofficial' meeting held at the mini secretariat here, which was attended by the union members, refinery officials, transporters, a representative of SAD MLA from Talwandi Sabo Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu and Bathinda DC Basant Garg. Gurlabh is also reported to be close to the MLA.
Though nothing was brought on record, Gurlabh claimed now the truck union will have its first right over the transportation of the goods from the oil refinery. Earlier, independent transporters had been transporting goods from the refinery since its commissioning in 2012. The Rama Mandi Truck Union had no role in it.
HIGH COURT RULING
A high court ruling on truck unions in Punjab reads,"Truck unions in Punjab have emerged as highly restrictive force on the free movement of goods within and outside the state, which is a pre-requisite for healthy growth of industry and trade..... The state government will take suitable and effective measures to check the exploitation of the industry by truck unions so that freight rates are market-determined rather than those being dictated by the truck unions. The industrial units will have the freedom to hire and ferry their goods. They will also have the freedom to operate their own trucks for transporting goods."
However, the presence of the deputy commissioner in the meeting held on Saturday to allegedly decide the first right of the truck union for transportation of goods is against the spirit of the high court ruling.
'DECISION TAKEN UNDER PRESSURE'
"Everything had been going on very smoothly since the commissioning of the refinery. However, the truck union started becoming active after the recent Talwandi Sabo by-election. The truck union was regularly pressuring the district administration and refinery officials to control the transportation of goods from the refinery. A one-day bandh was also observed by the union last week that paused transportation operations from the refinery for the day," said Gurwinder Singh, owner of Tarmala Transport Company.
"In today's unofficial meeting, we were told that the truck union has the right on the transportation of goods and we needed to consult with the union for our transport operations. This decision has been taken by the DC under the pressure of SAD leaders," said Gurwinder.
He said, "We are not going to remain silent. This is a one-sided decision and against the spirit of competition. It will not only hurt transporters, but also the industry. If this can happen with the refinery, then you can think about the plight of the small and medium industry in Punjab. "
REFINERY OFFICIALS NOT HAPPY
Between 250 to 300 trucks are loaded everyday from the refinery. Though it did not come on record, refinery officials are also reportedly against the development in which the truck union has become all-powerful.
"There are some poor local truck operators from Rama Mandi, who are also part of the Rama Mandi Truck Union. I was at the meeting, so that everything goes on smoothly. Everyone should get their right," said Raju, a representative of Talwandi Sabo MLA in the meeting.
The deputy commissioner could not be contacted despite repeated attempts for his comment on the development. Refinery officials also avoided to comment on the development. When asked if the DC has given anything in writing, Gurlabh Singh disconnected the phone and did not answer the follow-up calls.