As the pandemic is on the surge again, Maharashtra is one of the worst COVID-19 hit Indian states. In order to reduce public movement and curb the spread of the virus, several states are now individually imposing restrictions of various kinds. Recently, the Maharashtra Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) had tweeted the latest measures to contain the spread of the virus in the State.
The documents mentioned restrictions as follows:
‘Double vaccination mandatory, negative RTPCR test report valid from up to 72 hours of the time of arrival into the State. This shall apply to air, train as well as on-road passengers. This will also apply for drivers, cleaners and other support staff that may be travelling.’
The issued directives received a lot of flak, some valid and some invalid. Among those unhappy with the travel restrictions is the All India Motor Transport Congress (AITMC). According to them, these restrictions will create more inconvenience to the truckers (and helpers) rather than being of support from the Government, and more importantly, will cause major disruptions in the supply chain network.
In a candid conversation with Logistics Insider, the General Secretary (Maharashtra) of AIMTC, Chirag Katira said, “There are around 1 crore drivers in India and 80% of our truck drivers are vaccinated at least once. All we are requesting is for Maharashtra government to let those truckers who are vaccinated take entry into the state and also create provisions for the truckers at the borders to get their second jab before entering the State.”
He points that there are a lot of people throughout the country who have not been able to get their second vaccination done on time due to the shortage of vaccines in the country, especially in rural/remote areas. Truck drivers don’t even have the comfort of their own homes as any other ‘common man’ – they have worked tirelessly even during the peak times of the pandemic. Truck drivers are equally important as the other COVID-19 frontline workers as they have worked hard to ensure there are no disruptions in the essentials or food supply chain throughout the pandemic.
“COVID testing labs are situated in the internal parts of the cities. For a driver to obtain a negative RTPCR test, he needs to invest at least a couple of days – travelling to and from the outskirts of the city to the testing facility – since the large trucks are not allowed into the city. Secondly, checking vaccination certificate/RTPCR Report of the truckers and helpers at the borders will require a large workforce and cause massive traffic congestion at the borders considering that almost 15-20 lakh trucks travel through Maharashtra every day. These factors are imperative to cause huge delays and speed bumps in the entire supply chain and that will also have a domino effect on costs.” said Mr. Katira.
AIMTC wants that the State government should either allow those truckers to ply the city who have got vaccinated at least once or should arrange for them to get vaccinated for the second time at the border itself. Mr Katira believes this to be the most feasible solution to the situation right now and also that the initiative of state-sponsored vaccination will encourage the truck drivers towards their work as well as getting completely vaccinated. It will also have the added advantage of a smooth supply chain of essentials and medicines/medical equipment, which cannot be compromised on in view of the current surge in COVID-19 cases.