Starting from medical and paramedical staff, followed by law enforcement agencies, administration, and police, the list of Covid-19 warriors expanded during the longest lockdown world has seen. But the list has completely neglected a bunch of workers who have been working in extremely vulnerable situations: the truckers of India.
To contain the spread of coronavirus the government imposed a tough lockdown that was extended thrice, India not only has been running its essential services but has managed to maintain its supply-chain with the help of the workforce labelled “Corona Warriors of Covid-19 Warriors” by the government. Although many unknown warriors are waiting to be acknowledged.
“Truckers, who lay a major role in the country’s supply chain and have been continuously working through the lockdown in tougher conditions, helping the nation move even during the darkest hour, are the ones always neglected”, says Raghav Arora a transporter.
“State borders were closed, police had blocked the highways at some points. Most of the roadside Dhaba and repair shops were closed; Dhabas usually serve the truck drivers but they weren’t available. Yet, the truck drivers who were ferrying materials from all corners of the country managed to deliver supplies across different states”, added Arora.
According to the transporters, truckers of India ship more than 60% of the nation’s freight. When most of the businesses came to a halt, truckers were supplying the necessities. They are warriors because despite being at a high health risk of getting infected with the disease, these were the lot who kept working to supply the products and essentials to the market and other parts of the country to keep rolling the farm dependent economy of India. But lockdown due to Covid-19 virus was not the only challenge they’ve had to face.
“Although I was travelling on the same route, it seemed a whole new world. Police check posts, diversions, and barriers everywhere passing through all the check-posts with no food, our staff of three somehow managed to deliver the freight without eating anything for three consecutive days”, told Amar Nath, a truck driver remembering the havoc he had to face while on duty.
Amar Nath has been delivering essentials during the lockdown, but he found himself in trouble when after delivering the produce on his way back, the empty lorry was stopped at Jagadhari in Yamunanagar district of Haryana. He and his son Rinkoo, who works with him as a helper, had to pass days in their truck cabin without food. After good four days of Lockdown.2, the father-son duo managed to buy an old bicycle and pedalled to their village in the Sharanpur district of Uttar Pradesh.
“For transport staff and truck drivers who were on the roads during the lockdown without any safety gear, delivering essentials and agricultural produce on time was not the only challenge, this time they had to protect themselves from the Covid-19 as well. And most of them came out as winners”, says, Vijay Mariwala, a transport owner praising his truck drivers and staff who were on duty during the lockdown.
Truckers of India who are yet to be included in the list of Corona warriors didn’t only complete the task of maintaining the supply chain during the challenging times but also became a saviour for most of the stranded migrant workers and harried labours who left for their hometown bare feet.
“I was coming back from Delhi after delivering the goods when I met a person who was the head of the family of 7, he almost cried showing me 1500 rupees in his hand and asked me to help them reach their village in Bihar. As I was also going to Jharkhand, I took them along”, told Ravi Dubey, a trucker who gave a lift to over 50 stranded, harried workers of different routes.
Ravi, who started from Rajasthan, managed to get a kerosene stove and ration from a group of social workers distributing ration in Uttar Pradesh and his truck gave food, shelter, and a ride to home in a nominal price to the stranded workers who found him on their way back to their villages. Several truck drivers have not only continued to serve the nation during the crisis but also helped many who were walking barefoot to cover thousands of kilometres. Yet, they have been completely neglected from the list of ‘Corona Warriors’.
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