With the nationwide lockdown imposed in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis and fresh problems like lack of drivers and vehicular standstill surfacing, the transportation sector has seen a challenging start to the year. Chirag R Katira, Director at SNGT and Project Head for “Fight Against COVID 19” at All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC), shows us the light at the end of the tunnel, as he walks us through the strategies that need to be taken up to combat the present crisis, long term plans for the road transport sector and how positive reforms coupled with strong political will can change the face of the Road Transport Sector, in the Indian context. Excerpts follow:
The Road Transport Sector of India is considered to be the backbone of the economy, and it accounts for more than 60% freight in the country. How do you foresee this sector taking India to the path of economic recovery?
Transport sector is considered as the backbone of the economy and it has a major role to play in economic revival. It is possible if that notion is adhered to and practiced religiously in letter and spirit.
At this juncture, the road transport sector needs facilitation, hand-holding and direct and indirect relief from the government and institutions which is not forthcoming.
What are the risk management strategies, business contingency plans or other measures that trucking companies ought to take in order to cope with the Post Covid 19 era, after lockdown?
The industry is trying hard to limp back but there are multifold challenges to it. The entire ecosystem is down, drivers are under fear, their scarcity, fear of community transmission, poor demand and availability of loads, and the biggest one is lack of finance to run the vehicles. AIMTC has submitted a bare minimum rescue package to the Govt for the revival of this sector and we hope that better sense will prevail as the livelihood of more than 20 crore people depends upon this sector.
What are the initiatives taken by AIMTC to alleviate the problems faced due to the present situation of truckers?
AIMTC has pan India presence and it is working through its members and member associations to help the stranded drivers and helpers with food, water, sanitization kits, masks and gloves where ever possible. AIMTC is also in touch with authorities to help the drivers who are stranded and making their movement possible. We have been also engaging the government for COVID-19 health insurance for drivers and co-workers who have been maintaining the supply chain of essential commodities by risking their lives. Apart from that, we have submitted a White Paper to the government for lending a helping hand to the transport fraternity, more than 85% of which is unorganised and having ownership of one to five trucks.
“Minimum rescue package is the relief expected by the transport fraternity of India to cope up with the challenging circumstances and help secure livelihoods of more than 20 crore people dependent on it.”
There has been a recurrent problem of shortage of drivers in the country, which has been all the more aggravated by the present crisis. What will be the implications of this, in the months to come?
The shortage of drivers has aggravated during the COVID- 19 crisis as many of them have gone back home and do not want to come back due to fear of Coronavirus, social and family pressure and further lack of means of transportation. Those who are now reaching their destination after partial lifting of lockdown are craving to go to their homes to be with their families. It’s more than 30 days since the lockdown. But there is still no recognition or significant contribution towards the segment by country’s leadership nor is there any announcement for social security for them. Stories of harassment at the ground continue making them less motivated and the near future looks bleak on this front.
AIMTC had recently come up with the “Minimum Rescue and Relief Package” that was submitted for the government’s perusal. Can you share more about it?
Minimum Rescue and Relief Package is the relief expected by the transport fraternity of India to cope up with the challenging circumstances and help secure livelihood of more than 20 crore people dependent on it. It talks about Policy Initiatives, Operational Measures to be taken and Fiscal Package. All these are bare minimum to help the transport fraternity sail through these turbulent times. We share the White Paper with you for reference.
As an experienced professional with a dedicated history of working in the transportation, trucking and rail sector, what are the areas according to you, which need more progress for India to be at par with global standards?
Transportation sector is the key component of the supply chain and logistics. It is replete with inefficiencies and positive reforms with strong political will is required along with best practices to be at par with global standards.