Punjab truckers set truck on fire to oppose ban on unions
Taking their protest against the Punjab government's move to ban truck unions to the next level, a group of truckers on Wednesday set a goods carrier on fire in Punjab's Nakodar town, 160 km from here.
The truck was set ablaze by the Nakodar Truck Union members, who also raised slogans against the Amarinder Singh-led Congress government in Punjab.
The Punjab government had on July 5 announced that all truck unions would be disbanded in the state.
"We have been pleading with the government for the past one month to review its decision as it has affected truckers and lakhs of people associated with the trade. We will further intensify our agitation if the government does not listen to us," a member of the truck union said.
There are 134 truck unions in Punjab with over 93,000 trucks. Nearly 16 lakh people are associated with the trade.
"Of the 93,000 trucks, nearly 70,000 have been financed (are under loans). The government ban on truck unions has taken away our livelihood. We will set more trucks on fire and are ready to sacrifice our families," he said.
Following the state cabinet's decision last month, approving rules that will ban the formation of truck unions and cartels, nearly 93,000 trucks remained off the roads in Punjab on July 9.
The protest strike was called for a day by the All Punjab Truck Operators' Union.
The government justified its ban, saying it was aimed at ending the cartelisation of goods transport.
The state cabinet gave its approval to the Punjab Goods Carriages (Regulation and Prevention of Cartelization) Rules, 2017, which bars goods carriage operators from forming cartels or unions in the state.
"Once these rules come into effect, no operator or permit holder of goods carriages shall be allowed to form a cartel, denying freedom of choice to the consignors and consignees to engage the services of such operators or permit holders," a Punjab government spokesperson said earlier.
"The move is aimed at destroying the mafia of goods transporters who had cartelized the business over the past several years, obstructing the free and fair movement of goods transport, thereby also impacting the industrial development of the state," the spokesperson said.
To protect the interests of the transporters following the abolition of truck unions, it was also decided that the government should fix the minimum and maximum fares and freights for goods carriers.