Although the government allowed the transport of basic and non-basic goods during the 21-day national blockade imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19), logisticians experienced difficulties in transporting the goods.
Truck drivers, who have had to endure the anger of the authorities and the stigmatisation in their villages, have been the most affected.
Small businesses were also injured.
We had five trucks on the road when the lockdown was announced. When they arrived at their destination, they were stopped at the border and were not allowed into the states because food such as apples was not considered essential. As a result, the whole shipment was wasted. We are in the cold chain and these stops have the biggest impact on farmers, small businesses and fleet owners, says Ghazal Kalra, co-founder of Gurugrams Logistics from Rivigo.
While most drivers working in logistics companies are not willing to travel, those who are willing are confronted with basic problems such as food and water shortages on the road. There are no dubbing or open workshops for drivers along the roads, although the government has allowed restaurants to remain open. How do the people who drive these places get to the highway? They all stop in neighbouring villages and there is no public transport. They also lack manpower and raw materials for cooking, says Sachin Haritash, CEO and founder of the logistics company Chetak Group Mavyn.
Since the warehouses of most companies are closed or work in shifts, drivers often find that there is no one at the place of destination who can take delivery of the goods.
In some cases, uncertainty about the division of items into main and non-main flows has led to long queues at borders and to some drivers leaving vehicles.
Directors and employees face a different form of discrimination. Sarpanch, in his village, advised them not to come, because they could be carriers of the virus. Other employees were told by their landlords that they were not allowed to enter the house when they went to work. The lack of respect and dignity of the drivers is also reflected in the way they are sometimes beaten by the authorities, according to Calra.
According to a study conducted last year by the Indian Brand Equity Foundation, the logistics market is expected to reach $215 billion by 2020, representing an average annual growth rate of 10.5% over 2017.
The Confederation of Indian Industry has also called on the government to facilitate the movement of trucks across provincial and state borders. Currently, full documentation and three identity cards are required at district level for each business trip. We are negotiating with district judges to reduce congestion at the borders, said KV Mahidhar, executive director of the CII Logistics Institute.
The CII is also preparing a database of logistics companies operating nationwide. The list is updated daily and more than 9,000 members receive information, a senior TRC official said. At the government office, logistics companies asked him to allow drivers to leave their villages to reach the right vehicles after receiving the certificates from the local SHO or Sarpanch.
The authorities must establish a safe and fast corridor for freight traffic. Support for small and medium-sized enterprises should be increased. Owners of small fleets have lost the demand, so they can also be used to serve orders. The government should consider guaranteeing a certain level of safety for truck drivers too, according to Calra Rivigo.