Mrunal Manmay Dash

The Odisha Drivers’ Mahasangha has announced to join the all India ‘Quit Steering Wheel’ movement called by truck drivers over the new Hit and Run law.

While the strike has begun all over the country from Thursday, the members of Odisha Drivers’ Mahasangh will join the strike over the next two days after handing over their vehicles to their respective owners.

Speaking about the strike, Odisha Driver Mahasangha President Prashant Menduli said, “We wanted to go on strike all over India. So it has been decided that drivers from all the States will participate in the strike from January 4 indefinitely.”

“The Centre has made a new rule of 10 years imprisonment and Rs 7 lakh fine for hit and run offences which is too much for any driver to pay. Even Odisha government has been cheating us over our demand for driver-insurance. We had made 10 demands during the strike last year. The State government assured us to fulfil one demand. That too has not been implemented till now,” Menduli said.

It is pertinent to mention here that the Odisha drivers have been demanding the formation of a welfare fund, death benefits, social security including pension after 60 years of age, parking facilities and wayside amenities since last year.

They had gone on a State-wide strike in March 2023 demanding the same but called that off after three days following a written assurance from the state government that their demands will be resolved within three months.

The strike by the drivers last year had led to scarcity of fuel in many outlets across the state and rise in price of vegetables as the vegetable trucks and fuel tanks were stopped on the way. Passengers and daily commuters were left stranded as the striking drivers blocked the national and state expressways at different places.

It remains to be seen what kind of approach the State government takes following a strike call by drivers this time.