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Transport strike impacts normal life nationwide


New Delhi:  Normal life was impacted today in several parts of the country, including the national capital, as employees of state transport corporations and some private operators went on a 24-hour strike against the proposed Motor Bill, ignoring the Centre’s appeal to call it off.

Commuters faced hardship in Kerala with buses, taxis and auto-rickshaws going off the roads, while transport services were hit in Karnataka, Punjab, Guajart, Assam and Haryana.

The employees of state transport services proceeded on a 24-hour strike on the call of trade unions against the Road Transport and Safety Bill, 2015, ignoring Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari’s assurances that the Bill does not infringe upon the rights of state transport authorities and all their concerns will be addressed.

The strike has been called jointly by national level road transport bodies representing both public and private sector workers, affiliated to central trade unions like AITUC, CITU, BMS, INTUC, HMS, AICCTU, LPF and state-level outfits.

They are protesting against provisions in the Bill which include obtaining fitness certificates even for light motor vehicles regularly and stringent penalties for driving offences.

Gadkari termed their concerns “premature” and said wide consultations would be held with all stakeholders on the bill before enacting it.

Bus services remained paralysed in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh with state roadways and private buses remaining off the road.

Reports from Bhiwani and Amritsar said that there was a complete strike by the roadways employees in the districts and auto rickshaws have also joined the strike.

About 3,000 buses and trucks in Pathankot area have joined the strike. Pathankot SSP Rakesh Kaushal said patrolling in the area has been intensified to deal with any untoward incident.

In Kerala, commuters in Thiruvananthapuram, who depend on Kerala State Transport Corporation (KSTC) buses, had tough time reaching their work places as the buses did not operate.

Examinations being conducted by universities in the state have been postponed due to the strike while no untoward incident has been reported from any part of the state so far.

Services of public transport buses and auto rickshaws were also affected in different parts of Karnataka while incidents of stone pelting on public transport buses were reported from different parts of the state including Bengaluru, Hubballi, Bellary, Raichur and Mysuru.

Transport department officials said they are trying to operate buses and to convince the employees to report on duty and not to cause any hindrance to public.

Unions fear that the Bill in the present form will encroach upon state’s financial, legislative and administrative powers and are even up in arms against the stringent penalties proposed for road accidents.

Incidentally, NDA’s southern ally PMK has extended support to today’s strike, with the party describing it as a ‘black legislation’ which would affect various stakeholders in the transport sector.

However, in Karnataka, the KSRTC issued a circular yesterday asking its employees to attend the duty.

Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy said that “as almost all state transport employees are likely to participate in the strike, there may be problem in plying buses”.

Bengaluru City Police Chief M N Reddi said elaborate security arrangements have been made in the city on account of transport strike and has warned of strict action against stone pelting and any form of forceful imposition of strike, as also over charging.

There was little impact on normal life in Tamil Nadu as a majority of vehicles including government buses plied.

Government buses were plying as usual even as a section of private buses, lorries and auto-rickshaws kept off the road, police said.

Gadkari had appealed all STCs to call of the strike.

The ministry has said it wants to “assuage the concern of all stakeholders that the decision to allow stage carriages in a state is proposed to lie with the expert body i.e. State Transport Authority, under the respective state governments. It also plans to bring new technologies including greener fuels in vehicle manufacturing and operations”.

It further said: “As regards Inter-State Contract Carriage permits, these are envisaged to be issued by the National Transport Authority and the revenues due to each state will be transferred to such State, on the analogy of National Permit System for goods carriers.”

The power to decide on the actual quantum of fines is proposed to be put in rules, which will be brought before the people for wider consultation, it has added.

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