Covid-19 lockdown: Let trucks move to prevent shortages, Centre to states

Railways, airports, seaports, and customs authorities have already been authorised to issue passes for their staff and contractual labour and this should be ensured.
Amid several reports on disrupted movement of trucks carrying essential and non-essential goods across the country, the Union Home Ministry on Sunday said that it could lead to a potential shortage of commodities during the national lockdown, that was declared to contain the spread of coronavirus.

In a communication to chief secretaries of all states and Union Territories, Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said that guidelines on exemptions during the 21-day lockdown were not being followed properly in some parts of the country and vehicles carrying essential and non-essential items were being detained by police.

Not just trucks, workers needed for the operation of manufacturing units of essential goods, and other exempted categories are not getting authorisations or passes for their movement during the lockdown. "Any restriction of activities specifically permitted by the home ministry has the potential of creating shortages of essential commodities," Bhalla warned.

Inter- and intra-state movement of all trucks and other goods carrier vehicles with one driver and one additional person is allowed as long as the driver is carrying valid documents such as driving license and road permits, etc. According to the communique, empty trucks or goods carriers should also be allowed to operate while on way to pick up goods, or returning after completing a delivery.

"Irrespective of the nature of the cargo, whether essential or otherwise, no further permit or approval would be required," the home secretary said. "Inter-state movement of goods and personnel with passes and authorisations issued by authorities of one state or UT government are not being respected by the authorities of other States/ UTs," he added.
Local authorities should actively facilitate the movement of truck drivers and cleaners from their place of residence to the location of their trucks. Railways, airports, seaports, and customs authorities have already been authorised to issue passes for their staff and contractual labour and this should be ensured.

The home secretary also added that MSMEs engaged in the manufacturing of essential items like wheat flour (atta), pulses (dal) and edible oils; warehouses, cold storage should be allowed to function freely with allowance for to and fro movement of trucks, without any hindrance.

However, these stipulations will apply to all areas other than containment zones, hotspots as per the guidelines of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) where state governments or local authorities have imposed restrictions for preventing the spread of Covid-19. The movement of persons and vehicles is also subject to strict adherence to norms of hygienic and social distancing, as is required in the context of Covid-19

"All district authorities and field agencies must be informed of the instructions so that there is no ambiguity at the ground level, and activities allowed by the home ministry are carried without any hindrance," the letter read. 

Meanwhile, All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) has demanded an insurance package of Rs 50 lakh for the truck drivers and assistants who are engaged in maintaining the supply chain of essential commodities during the lockdown, on the lines of frontline health workers. They also asked for free treatment to truckers if they get infected by coronavirus during their work.

So far India has recorded 9,205 Covid-19 cases and the death toll has mounted to 331, according to data compiled by Worldometer.

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