State-owned and private transporters, who went on a day-long strike protesting the Road Transport and Safety Bill, 2015 on Thursday achieved partial success, with even government buses staying off the roads in many states, including Gujarat.
State capitals, which have organised unions of autorickshaw drivers such as Bengaluru and Delhi, saw commuters facing serious problems in view of truncated services by three-wheelers. All central trade unions, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) collaborated to enforce the strike. Passengers at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport had to depend on radio cabs and long queues were seen both at the airport and the railway station.
Union Minister of Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari appealed to the transporters to call off the strike, even promising to negotiate on the hefty fines that the new Bill proposes for minor traffic violations.
Under the new provisions, if a child is killed in a road accident by any driver, he will be punished with a cash fine of Rs 3 lakh and imprisonment of up to seven years. While in case of an animal’s death in a road mishap, the fine could be Rs 1 lakh and imprisonment of up to four years.
The new Bill will also enable state governments to allow private carriages on state roads, causing financial losses to the state transport corporations. The Bill has stringent punishment clauses, including Rs 5,000 fine for drivers jumping red lights and not putting on seat belts.
It also has provisions to impose Rs 15,000 fine or one-year jail for drunken driving.
In Delhi, the main grouse of auto drivers was the forcible installation of GPS instruments that can cost up to Rs 3,000 a piece. The drivers are also concerned that the fine for jumping a red light would be increased from Rs 100 to Rs 3,000-Rs 5,000.
Reports from Karnataka and Gujarat indicated state government transport corporation service was truncated and violence was reported from the former. This was because transport unions had joined the strike. In Gujarat, around 40,000 GSRTC employees were on mass leaves to support the strike.
The only exception was transporters, truckers and bus operators in Bihar who have taken a rain check on the strike in view of the problems it would cause for those affected by the earthquake in Bihar and Nepal.
However, they reserved the right to go on strike on a future date against the collection of toll tax on 49 bridges in Bihar, besides alleged extortion at bus stands by municipal corporation and district boards in different districts.