Sharmili Mallick

Hundreds of members of the Odisha Drivers’ Association from across 30 districts of the State congregated in Bhubaneswar on Friday and launched a protest rally to pressurise the government for the fulfilment of their 10-point charter of demands.

The drivers have been holding padyatra in the 30 districts since October 21 and the agitation in the Capital today is a part of that protest.

Holding posters and placards, the agitating members started the rally from Palasuni Square and are scheduled to march till Naveen Niwas, the official residence of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

Among their major demands are—insurance coverage of Rs 10 lakh on accident and Rs 20 lakh on death, pension after retirement, compensation for the losses they incurred during the Coronavirus pandemic, special arrangements for parking bus in 100 kilometres, fixed eight hours of duty, recognition as employees of the State Transport Department and Covid warriors. 

The drivers alleged though they had earlier submitted a memorandum to the CM in this regard, no steps have been taken to fulfil their demands. They threatened that they will launch cease work agitations if their demands are not met soon.

“We want a compensation of Rs 10 lakh in case an on-duty driver meets with an accident and Rs 20 lakh for the kin, in case of a death. Our license expires after attaining 55 years of age. So, we want a pension for us after retirement so that we can look after our families. If the State government doesn’t fulfil our demands soon, we will stage cease work stir,” said a protestor.

“Many drivers have lost their lives during the Coronavirus pandemic but the State government is yet to announce any compensation for them. They have not also been recognised as Covid warriors. We want compensation for the losses we had to suffer due to the pandemic-induced lockdown,” another driver demanded.

Meanwhile, adequate police forces have been deployed on the Janpath and near Naveen Niwas to maintain law and order.