Even after 20 days since a lockdown was announced by the Central government to tackle the spread of Covid-19, the truckers are facing problems in hassle-free transportation of goods. There are worries that this could possibly disrupt the supply chain for essential commodities in the current situation.
Concerned about the state of affairs, Ajay Bhalla, Home Secretary has asked all the Chief Secretaries of states to take corrective measures in this regard as previous such guidelines and clarifications from his Ministry remained unimplemented in ‘letter and spirit’.
The Home Ministry's concerns stems from the realisation that the trucks carrying essential and non-essential goods are being detained by police in some parts of the country.
Further, the inter-state movement of goods is also getting hampered as the authorisation passes issued by one state or Union Territory is not being respected by others. Also, the operations of the warehouses and cold storages, which are critical for smooth operations of goods are not being allowed and thereby causing problems for the truckers.
In a letter, Bhalla warns that “the aforesaid restrictions, with regard to activities specifically permitted by MHA, have the potential of creating shortages of essential commodities.”
In order to redress the difficulties faced by truck drivers while transporting essential food and non-essential items during the lockdown, the Centre is repeatedly urging states and Union Territories to do the needful to smoothen the process at the ground level.
Consumer Affairs Secretary, Pawan Kumar Agarwal also reiterated the directions given by Home ministry, asking all the states to designate a nodal officer whose mandate will be to coordinate with state police for ensuring hassle free movement of essential supplies, along with issuing authorisation letters to companies and organisations having nationwide supply of essential goods. As per the communication shared by them, “Movement of driver and one person from their place of residence to truck may kindly be facilitated by the local authorities.”
Speaking to Autocar Professional, JP Singla, CEO, All India Transporters’ Welfare Association (AITWA) seconded that orders and notifications from the government barely reached the personnel at the ground level who therefore continue to prevent the drivers from performing their duties. “Now this is the problem which needs to be ironed out at the urgent basis” added Singla.
According to Singla, the transportation industry which is the backbone of the food supply chain is already reeling under severe shortage of drivers and helpers as many of them are now hesitant given the risk of Covid-19 infection. Additionally, several drivers are already stuck in different parts of the country after an abrupt announcement of lockdown by the government.
As per current rules, inter-state and intra-state movement of all trucks and other goods/carrier vehicles with one driver and one additional person is allowed as long as the driver is carrying a valid driver’s license. This is irrespective of the nature of the cargo, whether essential or otherwise. No further permit or approval would be required.