Bihar: Alarm bells ring as truckers’ strike begins to bite - Hindustan Times
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Bihar: Alarm bells ring as truckers’ strike begins to bite

Jan 02, 2024 09:47 PM IST

State transport secretary Sanjay Kumar Agarwal said the DMs and SPs have been asked told to ensure uninterrupted supply of essential services.

Bihar chief secretary Amir Subhani on Tuesday reviewed the situation amid the ongoing stir by drivers of public and goods transport vehicles against new penal provisions pertaining to rash driving under recently adopted Bharatiya Nyah Sanhita (BNS) and directed the district magistrates (DMs) and superintendents of police (SPs) to ensure that emergency services remain unhindered.

Buses parked at Bankipur Bus Terminal in Patna on Tuesday. (Santosh Kumar/HT)
Buses parked at Bankipur Bus Terminal in Patna on Tuesday. (Santosh Kumar/HT)

Talking to HT, state transport secretary Sanjay Kumar Agarwal said the DMs and SPs have been asked told to ensure uninterrupted supply of essential services. “They have also been asked to provide safety to the drivers and transporters seeking to maintain supply chain and ensure that common people were not troubled due to the strike,” Agarwal said, citing the instructions issued by the chief secretary.

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Drivers of trucks, buses and auto-rickshas went on a flash strike on January 1 in protest against certain provisions of BNS relating to hit-and-run cases, which stipulate a jail term of up to 10 years to those on the wheels for accidental deaths.

President of Bihar Motor Transport Federation (BMTF), Uday Shankar Prasad Singh, who has backed the strike, said the penal provisions were same for all those driving the motor vehicles, be it two-wheelers, three-wheelers, four-wheelers or bus or trucks. “The changed penal action will affect one and all, from professional drivers or to individuals,” he said.

Public transport and goods transport services have come to an abrupt halt as drivers of truck, buses, auto-rickshaws and tempos have kept their vehicles off the road to join the nationwide strike.

The BMTF chief said the drivers would resume their duties after January 3 to let the Central government discuss the issue. “They will resort to indefinite strike from February 1 if their demands to review the ‘black laws’ are not met,” Singh said.

While the drivers of public transport have decided to resume their work from Thursday, truck drivers have embarked on an indefinite strike, which has affected supply of vegetables, fruits, foodgrains and raw materials to small-scale industrial units. Prices of vegetables and fruits have shot up by 20% as no truck carrying these commodities entered the capital since morning, people familiar with the matter said.

Bihar truck owners association president Bhanu Shekhar Prasad Singh, who has also supported the drivers’ strike, said truck drivers have already gone on an indefinite strike. “They (drivers) are prepared for a long-drawn battle, like the one undertaken by the farmers against draconian farm laws. There is no leader of the strike. The impact of the strike will have an adverse impact on the state’s economy as well. The Central government must urgently take a call on withdrawal of the stringent provisions of the law that deals with rash driving,” he said, adding that about five lakh truck drivers have joined the indefinite strike since Monday.

Meanwhile, Bihar’s rural development minister Shravan Kumar urged the Central government to consider the agitating drivers’ demand. “The Central government must hold consultations on amending any law that has its direct bearing in the states. The state’s economy is bearing the brunt of the Centre’s ‘impractical’ decision. Nobody wants to kill anyone while driving,” said the minister, adding that the strike had crippled transport services across the state.

Long queues of trucks were seen parked near dhabas (roadside eateries) and petrol pumps, leading to disruptions in vehicular traffic on the national highways in various districts. At many places, including in the state capital, protesters burned tyres and manhandled with car/SUVs owners, leading to massive snarls.

“Police teams explained to the truck drivers that the law is yet to come into force. We have cleared some of the roads within minutes of attempting to block it,” said a senior official of state police headquarters.

Brijendra Kumar Singh, general secretary of Bihar petroleum dealers’ association, told HT that the fuel pumps in the state may go dry by Thursday if the situation does not normalise. “There are more than 2,200 fuel stations in the state. Many of them are almost running dry because they were not picking up fresh consignments over rumours of price reduction in the range of 4- 6 per litre. Also, due to panic, people are buying more petrol than required, making it difficult to maintain the stock. It will be difficult if there is no supply of petrol in the coming days,” he said.

Meanwhile, co-ordinator of Federation of LPG Distributors of India, Sudhansu Kumar Singh, said that the state required 240 trucks of LPG cylinders every day. In the last two days, they received only 30% of LPG cylinders in their godowns. “We have hired drivers to ply our trucks to bring cylinders. Some of the trucks are caught in traffic snarls while some are stranded in depots because there are no drivers,” he said.

Traffic blocked on Patna-Ara road

Agitated drivers of buses and trucks on Tuesday blocked Patna-Ara road for hours. They also blocked Ara-Sasaram road at Piro.

(With inputs from Prashant Ranjan in Ara)

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Subhash Pathak is special correspondent of Hindustan Times with over 15 years of experience in journalism, covering issues related to governance, legislature, police, Maoism, urban and road infrastructure of Bihar and Jharkhand.

  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Avinash, a senior correspondent, reports on crime, railways, defence and social sector, with specialisation in police, home department and other investigation agencies.

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