The Bharat Bandh called by the transporters yesterday met with a mixed reaction with videos surfacing on how a number of transporters have flouted the call for the bandh by carrying on business as usual.
The nationwide protest was observed to voice against rising fuel prices, new rule impacting e-way bills and a review of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) system.
The Bandh was called by the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), also supported by the All India Transporters Welfare Association (AITWA), an apex body of India’s road transport sector.
About 30-40 Lakh transporters were to remain off the road between 6 am to 8 pm on Friday, and all commercial markets across the country were to remain shut. Transporters and traders had also called for stage sit-ins and road blockades at 1,500 locations across the country.
“All commercial markets across the country will remain closed and protest dharnas will be organised in different cities of all states,” CAIT General Secretary Praveen had earlier stated.
While commenting on the counter-claims about the success of the strike, Mahendra Arya, National President, AITWA stated that there have been efforts to malign the movement.
“There are a few people who are trying to malign our movement, but in reality, the AITWA members have sincerely followed the bandh everywhere, in all the cities. There are pictures of city associations that have gone to the GST commissioner and submitted the memorandum.”~Mahendra Arya, National President, AITWA
On a circular issued by another transport association where they termed the one-day bandh “cosmetic”, Mr Arya retorted, “They call it cosmetic, we call it ‘sanketik’ (intended to send out a message)”.
“One day strike is not a long strike; you may call it cosmetic, but in the sense of success, it is not cosmetic, it is a complete one day strike.”
While commenting on the videos where transporters are seen violating the instructions of the protest, Mr Arya responded, “I have seen the videos, we cannot say that 100% bandh will be followed everywhere, because we do not control 100% of the transport business.”
Mr Arya further stressed that the mark of complete observation of the protest will not always be visible on the road.
“Our members are the top transport companies of India. When they close the business, the visibility may not necessarily be on the road.”
“For example, the Car Carrier Association is supporting us. Prior to the bandh, they had approached all car manufacturers and informed them of the bandh and asked them not to dispatch any cars on that day. So, all the OEMs had confirmed that they are supporting our cause and thus, there will not be any car dispatches on the day of the bandh, thereby being a part of this movement. So, where will you see the visibility of that?”
Contrary to Mr Arya’s statement, Bal Balkit Singh, Chairman – Core Committee, All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) pointed out how the one-day protest was only observed in paper, as active members were seen carrying out with their business as usual.
“AIMTC, an apex body for the truckers and transporters, representing 90 lakh truckers across the country and 3500 districts, state talukas, association affiliated to it, had decided in its meeting on February 13 that we will issue an ultimatum of 14 days to the government, which was served on February 16 and it was decided in the meeting that we will not participate in the Bharat bandh called by the traders’ association.”
“We have not participated [in the protest] and on the contrary, this bandh was only on paper without any effect at the ground level, since everything was normal as usual”, Mr Singh stated.
“It is indeed very sorry to see that the members belonging to the association that had called for the bandh, had kept their businesses open and continued with their bookings and deliveries, for which the videos and pictures speak for themselves. These are my views on the ground reality – what was our stand and the impact of the bandh today [February 26].”~Bal Balkit Singh, Chairman- Core Committee, All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC)