In the aftermath of the Centre’s move to amend the Motor Vehicles Act, the transport workers union decided to keep their vehicles off the roads. This was done to protest against amendments that they felt would result in corporatisation of the transport sector.
General Secretary of Tamil Nadu’s Road Transport Workers Union, S. Murthy, stated that the amendment would result in every aspect of transport like licensing and registration being privatised.
The Strike Gathers Momentum
More than 1.5 lakh commercial vehicles, including taxis, auto rickshaws and maxi cab workers, went on strike on Tuesday, August 7. The halt of plying of commercial vehicles in the state was likely to have caused a loss of Rs. 100 crore to the state. The workers union was demanding regular toll fare charges across India and the need for petrol and diesel to come under the gambit of GST.
Excluding the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, which is backed by the BJP, all other trade unions including the AITUC, AICCTU, CITU, HMS and more have participated in the protest. These trade unions were also joined by various associations like the Vehicle Owner’s Association, Association of workshop owners, a spare parts dealers association and many more. This was meant to take a stand against the centre and its politics.
The strike did not stick to just one state. In Tamil Nadu, all unions apart from those having affiliations with AIADMK, participated in the strike. The Haryana Roadways buses also joined the national strike in protest against a bill that they felt would destroy the Public sector transport system. The workers held marches across the state. They also protested against the state government’s decision to bring in 700 private buses as this would lead to greater privatisations. Instead increasing the number of buses under the roadways department was recommended. While Karnataka witnessed a mixed response, the Odisha Unions and Associations came out in full support.
Where the bill stands
Apart from protesting against the amendments of the Motor Vehicles Bill, the union is also against the continuous hike in petroleum products, according to K.K. Divakaran, General Secretary of AIRTWF.
This bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on April 10, 2017, however, it is still in the process of getting approval in the Rajya Sabha. The amendments proposed in the bill are likely to dilute the power of state governments and give greater power to corporates and the BJP-led centre continues to favour these amendments.
Plight of the people
The strike began at midnight and is expected to be a 24 hour, nationwide strike. In addition to the commercial vehicles staying off roads, the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation has also joined the strike demanding a revision in salaries, interim relief, DA arrears, etc.
Passengers who arrived at the Thampanoor railway station that morning were left in a hurdle and had to wait for hours to find transport. The police tried to provide some relief by providing vehicles to take commuters who had arrived from far-off places a drop to various hospitals. Only private vehicles were seen plying on the roads and attendance in government offices was also drastically impacted.
Private schools were also deterred from following their previously scheduled plans. Most unions had encouraged their people to stay off from work to show solidarity. Apart from the trouble to commuters, the movement of goods along the Karnataka and Tamil Nadu- Kerala borders witnessed a hit.