With the livelihood of about 1 crore truckers in peril due to the lockdown, transporters on Friday urged the government for an immediate relief package for the transport sector.
The outbreak of coronavirus pandemic and the resultant lockdown to contain its spread have led to the idling of more than 90 per cent of about one crore truckers.
More than 4 lakh truckers with goods under non-essential categories are still stranded across India while goods worth about Rs 40,000 crore are lying in vehicles in the absence of unloading mechanism as well as reluctance on part of godowns, owners and others, All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC)President Kultaran Singh Atwal said.
Atwal said the situation is so grim that AIMTC has written to the government, seeking immediate rescue and relief package as the transport sector has already gone on "ventilator" and as much as 20 crore people are directly or indirectly dependent on it for livelihood.
AIMTC is the apex body of transporters representing about 93 lakh truckers besides various transport entities.
Naveen Gupta, Secretary-General of AIMTC said he was flooded with distress calls from across the nation from drivers stuck during the lockdown, seeking help.
In a few such recordings with PTI, truckers are heard pleading for help saying they have been left with nothing to eat. One driver from Himachal Pradesh is heard saying "I will die of cold and hunger.
In a few other recordings, drivers are heard saying the godown owner or concerned transporter is not ready for unloading of goods.
Gupta said the average daily loss suffered by truckers is estimated at about Rs 2,200 crore and the situation is going to be alarming.
Atwal said there are many instances where the truckers have abandoned the goods and left in a panic.
"We have asked immediate rescue and relief package from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman which includes the demand of average Rs 15,000 per month for the drivers of trucks and buses to sustain their families on basis of documents like driving licences and Aadhar, "Gupta said.
Besides, AIMTC, which has prepared a White Paper and submitted it to the government, has demanded compulsory insurance for drivers as they are the backbones of the supply chain, he said.
"The strategic importance of the road transport sector cannot be under-estimated, which is amply demonstrated now while maintaining the continuity of the supply chain and ensuring that communities have access to food, medical care and other essential commodities. This sector is providing yeoman services akin to police, doctors and paramedics," the White Paper said.
The road transport sector of India is one of the critical sectors of the economy and highly unorganized and marginalized, the Paper said adding "it is supposedly the 'backbone of the economy' and the 'lifeline ... providing essential services to the common man'- 365 X 24 X 7. It is the highest employment generator."
The paper said the health of the sector, which is pinned as the barometer of the economy, has in fact "deteriorated amid lockdown and in essence, it is on ventilator and is in dire need of oxygen to survive. All the transport segments, both cargo and passenger, are under Acute Financial Stress due to the Coronavirus crisis."
The wheels have stopped and so there is no revenue generation, no financial inflows as payments from parties are restrained and existing finance with the small operators as well as that of big operators is depleting fast, it added.
It demanded immediate intervention including the inclusion of road transport into the National Transport Policy, a minimum Cost-Based Freight (CBF) support policy and social security for the people engaged in the supply chain including rivers, helpers, loaders, unloaders and other players of the supply chain under ESIC, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojna or Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojna.
The other demands included availability of soft loans without Collateral and Credit Facility to transporters besides waiver of NH / State / Municipal Tolls till October 31, 2020, and deferments of EMIs.