Total Lockdown: Transporters face hurdles in moving essential commodities

March 25, 2020
Rajesh Krishnan

Transport companies are trying to address growing challenges at state borders and at loading points as they seek to keep moving essential commodities to meet surging coronavirus-driven demand for consumer staples and medical supplies.

As per the guidelines issued by Ministry of Home Affairs for containment of pandemic COVID-19 in the country, there is an exception given for transportation of essential goods. But the enforcement authorities at the district level in certain states, have restricted movement of trucks carrying essential goods. Truckers say that the authorities do not have clarity on the list of commodities that is considered to be essential. This leads to unnecessary confusion and harassment at various checkpoints/ state borders.

‘We have been waiting for a few days at the state borders for clearance. We find it very difficult to get food, water and there is no place to rest. Though we are carrying gas cylinders, which comes under essential goods category, authorities have closed the borders and checkpoints’, says Vijay Singh, a trucker from Rajasthan.

The Ministry of Shipping has issued an order declaring any movement of goods from port to CFS as essential service and they have instructed the district administration through state secretaries not to restrict movement of trucks/trailers to and from Ports/ CFS.

Referring to Section 2(1)(a)(xii) of the ESMA, 1981, The Ministry of Steel has instructed all state chief secretaries not to restrict transportation of coal, steel and fertilisers as these commodities are coming under essential services category.

However, reports say that transportation of containers, coal and steel face hurdles by district officials in various parts of the country.

Experts are of the opinion that restriction on movement of essential commodities will lead to bigger problems. ‘As India enters the 21 days total lockdown, daily consumables like vegetables, milk, fruits, meat, groceries and other essentials like medicine, fuel, gas and animal feed should be made available to the entire population. Slowdown in supply will lead to price rise and panic driven stocking’ says Raghav, a social activist from Hyderabad.

Though the state and central governments have taken unprecedented measures and working really hard to contain the spread of virus, they should also prepare and address the issues arising out of sudden stoppage in economic activity and impeding supply.

The trucker associations along with industry bodies have approached the state governments to exempt truckers delivering essential goods from travel and other restrictions aimed at containing the pandemic.