Mumbai/Nagpur, March 26 Responding to an urgent SOS made by prominent Nagpur lawyer Vinod Tiwari, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar on Thursday permitted thousands of truckers stranded all over the state to proceed to their destinations and allowed community kitchens to cater to their food needs.
In a memorandum to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other authorities, Tiwari on Thursday raised the question of the plight of several million trucks coming to a grinding halt on national and state highways, state, city, district and village roads from midnight on March 23 and March 24 after the state and national lockdowns were enforced.
"Since the past three days, the truckers have no food, water, toilet facilities, resting place as they have to ensure the security of their vehicles plus the goods they are carrying. Many have spent sleepless nights in the open on desolate highways or roads, or sleep in turns to safeguard themselves, their trucks and valuable cargo," Tiwari told IANS.
As per rough estimates, over a million big and small trucks, tempos and other non-passenger vehicles are reported stuck across the country, in mountains, valleys, deserts, forests, hills or plains... They have little to no food as all dhabas and eateries are shut, no place to bath or places of convenience to relieve themselves, etc, he added.
"Many of the truckers and cleaners and an occasional extra hand have problems of local languages, have run out of money, have no mobile charging facilities, even petrol-diesel pumps are closed at night, they are barred entry in many towns or villages. How can these two million stranded survive and this will impact their families around the country who depend on them for survival," Tiwari said.
He urged the Centre and all state governments, Union Territories administrations, civic bodies and villages to immediately arrange for temporary transport zones where the truckers can drive and rest, arrange food and medicines, health checkups and security or their vehicles/goods for the next nearly three weeks when they will be rendered immobile.
Taking note of Tiwari's concerns at a meeting of senior officials, Pawar said all the trucks stranded with goods or essentials in Maharashtra, would be allowed to reach their respective destinations.
"This will prevent shortage of goods and essential supplies, and after unloading their consignment, police will not hamper their return journey with the empty vehicles," Pawar said in the meeting attended by ministers Anil Deshmukh, Jayant Patil, Chief Secretary Ajoy Mehta, Director-General of Police Subodhkumar Jaiswal and other senior officials.
Appreciating Pawar's promptness, Tiwari said that the timely "humanitarian gesture" will go a long way in easing the plight of the stranded truckers besides saving huge losses by way of their unprotected and perishable cargoes which can now safely reach the intended destinations.
As per industry estimates, the maximum number of trucks of various sizes and capacities, besides tempos and other smaller transport vehicles, are reported to be stranded in and around Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Nashik, Ahmednagar, Sangli, Nagpur, Yavatmal, Aurangabad, Kolhapur and other major industrial or agriculture centres in the state.