New Delhi: The Modi government is expediting the process of normalising the supply chain that got badly affected after scores of trucks carrying essential and non-essential commodities got stuck at highways and state borders after the nationwide lockdown was announced on 24 March to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Faced with harassment by police, truck drivers, many of whom are stranded on highways without food or water since the lockdown, have refused to ply their vehicles carrying essential and non-essential goods. This has disrupted the delivery of supplies, including food and medicine, to retail shops and markets across the country.
To put a check on rent-seeking by law enforcing authorities at the borders, the government has decided that a trucker will only need to show his driving licence at the border to cross.
The decision was taken by one of the 11 empowered committees set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week to tackle the pandemic. The committee that took this decision has been tasked with ‘facilitating supply chain and logistics management for availability of necessary items, including food and medicine’.
A government official, familiar with the development, said: “They won’t be required to show any other documents (other than their licence). Also, besides the driver, only a cleaner will be permitted in the trucks.”
The government is in the process of issuing a directive in this regard, said the official.
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‘Police beating, threatening truck drivers’
Sources said the decision was taken following several complaints from truck drivers on how they are being harassed by the law enforcing authorities.
“Truckers are facing rampant corruption in the hands of the police since the lockdown started. The police and RTO (regional transport office) officials are beating and threatening our drivers and asking for money. We have demanded that the government should ensure that truckers are not harassed,” said S.K. Mittal, chairman, All India Motor Transport Congress.
Mittal said of the nearly 1.05 crore trucks that are registered in the country, around 13,000 have the national permit required for inter-state movement.
“If even half of them are stranded with goods since the last one week, think of the impact it is going to have on the people. The government has to immediately step in if it wants the supply chain to continue functioning,” he added.
All empowered committees are meeting everyday
It was on the recommendation of the empowered committee on logistics and supply chain, headed by Secretary, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Parameswaran Iyer, that the government had on 29 March allowed transportation of all goods, be it essential or non-essential, during the lockdown, sources said.
According to another senior government official, the 11 empowered committees are meeting every day, at times more than once a day, to expedite decision-making and ensure better coordination with the states.
“The committees are going through various suggestions that ministries are sending, filtering them and taking a call on what all can be implemented,” said the official.
For instance, the empowered committee on ‘availability of hospitals, isolation and quarantine facilities, disease surveillance, testing and critical care training’ is currently compiling the data on the health infrastructure available across states.
“Based on the data, the committee will decide what all needs to be prioritised and issue necessary directions,” the official added.
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