FCI freight truckers go on strike; food scarcity feared

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IMPHAL, Jan 10: There is an apprehension of another artificial scarcity of daily essential (PDS) items in the state in the near future following a decision of state transporters to stay away from their normal services of importing the daily essential items into the state complaining of failure of concerned authorities to provide full proof security them.
The transporters have been on a strike and from January 8 onwards have been staying off the wheels after the concerned authorities failed to provide full security to prevent any forms of harassments to the truckers while loading the PDS items from the godown at Dimapur by various militant groups operating in the Nagaland state.
The transporters maintained that they will agree to lift FCI goods only on National Highway 53 if the government allows them. They said NH 39 was unsafe for them.
More than 300 trucks requisitioned on FCI duty have started their protest since yesterday evening inside the Khuman Lampak sports complex, at a  field opposite the Indoor Stadium, citing inadequate security cover and failure of the government to act according to requisition norms which was agreed upon by the government in the past.
Speaking to media persons, a representative of the drivers stated that there used to be only 50-60 requisition trucks meant for FCI duty in the past plying on NH 39 with three CRPF vehicles meant for their escort, however in the past 9-10 days the number of requisition trucks have increased to more than 300 trucks however the number of escort vehicles provided to the requisition trucks have not increased, and as such harassment of drivers, illegal tax collection, threat to the drivers etc have not stopped even in the presence of the escorts.
He further maintained that due to the inadequate number of security escorts who seem more or less not interested in the safety of the truckers, there has been numerous incidents when the drivers and their trucks are threaten even in front of the security escorts and added that the situation gets murkier as the trucks leaves Mao gate, with miscreants threatening and collecting illegal taxes even in front of the Nagaland police.
He further cited that the accompanying escort personnel had ignored them in a recent incident in Dimapur some days back, when the drivers had approached the escort party when some miscreants beat up one of the drivers at the Dimapur godown.
Extortion and illegal taxes take place right under the nose of the accompanying CRPF escorts and all they say is “make an entry at each post”, stated a driver and added that “The security escorts, meant to protect and secure the trucks and the transportation of goods, have even beaten up the drivers on trifle technical breakdown of vehicles alleging them of improper maintenance of their vehicles.”
According the another driver, even Home guards who supposedly provide security at the godowns in Dimapur collect taxes on behalf of extortionist groups through a comprehensive list of the trucks. And only after all the illegal taxes demanded are paid off, CRPF escorts show up.
The drivers further alleged that in one of the recent trips eight drivers were bashed up at Dimapur for being indisposed to paying tax.
The drivers have further maintained that they will start plying on the highway only if the government will agree to act according to the safety norms provided in the requisition norms and further give assurance of full protection to the drivers and their trucks. In case of failure of the government to apply to the safety norms provided in the security norms, the drivers have appealed to allow them to ply on the highway freely on their own risk, without the security escorts which allow them to move freely in their own pace.
They have further maintained that the drivers will not ply on NH 39 even if the government tries to force them to ply on the highway without considering their demands.
Meanwhile, the people of the state have been facing serious grievances over the acute and uncontrolled price rise of various essential items including the items dealt directly under the PDS items of Consumer Affairs’ Food and Public Distribution department since many consecutive months starting from around April last year with the initiation of the economic blockade along the National Highways by Naga bodies and subsequent strikes called by the transporters of the state against the inability of the state government to maintain proper conditions of the existing National highways along with the provision of highway protection forces.
Even though the transporters of the state had recently come out voluntarily for ferrying in the essential food items into the state from the FCI godowns outside the state, the government has failed to meet their demand of providing at least the minimum security cover for the transporters while delivering their services along the NHs.
On the other hand either with the pressure of the state government or the directives from the owners of the trucks, the transporters especially drivers have made their maximum effort to deliver their services for the people of the state even though there was no positive responses from the concern authorities to provide security for them, during this past three months, but the accumulating incidents of harassment of the transporters either at Dimapur FCI godown or along the road from Kohima to Moa gate have resulted in the drivers of the trucks of the state to stay away from the road and shy away from their truck steering, the source added.
In the meantime the sudden stand of the transporters to launched a strike and stay away from their steering have caused serious concern among the public and the various transporters unions and associations of the state have drawn the attentions of the state government to take immediate actions to call back the drivers of the state who are on silent strike by fulfilling their demands while considering the present grievances of the people of the state caused by the scarcities of essential items which is on the rise in the state day by day.

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