Truckers' Protest Against New Hit-And-Run Law Prompts Rush At Fuel Pumps

Protests have broken out in several states, including Bihar, Punjab, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Chhattisgarh

Several cities are witnessing panic buying of fuel amid the truckers' protest

New Delhi:

Fuel pumps in several states are witnessing long queues over the past couple of days. No, this is not a rush to fill up tanks before prices go up. This is panic buying amid apprehensions that the truckers' protest against the soon-to-be-implemented criminal code will hit supply. If the protest drags on, it may hit supply of other essential supplies too. 

Why Are Truckers Protesting

Protests have broken out in several states, including Jammu and Kashmir, Bihar, Punjab, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, against the high penalties for hit-and-run accidents in Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, which is set to replace the colonial-era Indian Penal Code.

Under the new law, hit-and-run cases can attract up to 10 years in jail and a fine of Rs 7 lakh. Truckers, cab drivers and others operating commercial vehicles are asking how they would pay such a high fine in the event of an accident. Happy Sidhu, president of All Punjab Truck Operators' Union, called the new law a "black law" that will destroy truckers in Punjab.

Protest Hitting Supply Lines

Drivers of thousands of tankers that transport fuel to pumps are part of the protest. With them joining the strike, fuel crisis has already gripped several cities and other urban centres fear a similar situation in the coming days. An association of petrol pump dealers in Aurangabad have said fuel pumps in the district may go dry by Tuesday.

"Drivers of tankers that carry fuel from Panewadi (in Nashik) have called for agitation and have stopped filling fuel," Aqeel Abbas, secretary of the association, told news agency PTI. At Himachal in the north, the strike has already hit the tourism sector. Local media reports have said tourists are struggling to find vehicles after cab operators joined the strike against the new law.

Anil Garg, president of Maharashtra school bus owners' association, said school buses would operate till they run out of diesel. "If diesel supply stops, school buses will stop too."

Protests From Patna To Pune

Tyres were burnt and roads blocked in Patna as truck operators raised slogans against the new law, questioning who will feed their families if they stay in jail for 10 years. In Navi Mumbai, a group of truckers attacked a policeman early this morning. The cops had to use force to disperse the mob on Mumbai-Bengaluru highway, PTI reported.

In Thane, the protesters blocked Mumbai-Ahmedabad Highway and threw stones at police. A policeman was injured and a police vehicle damaged. At Dhar in Madhya Pradesh, private bus and truck drivers blocked the Pitampur highway. Protests were held in Bhopal and Chhattisgarh capital Raipur too.

What Are Protesters Saying

Explaining why they are protesting, Bhopal cab driver Gyansingh Yadav broke down. "People like me who drive cabs for a living still go home at night. But truck drivers often don't meet their loved ones for 15 days or more. We are not against any government or law, but I feel some amendments should be made, especially with regard to the penal provisions against drivers. The new law attracts a 10-year prison term for errant drivers. I feel it should be reduced to 1-2 years," he told news agency ANI.

At Raipur, a bus driver said, "We are poor people. Penal action should be taken against the owners of our vehicles. This law is unfair on us. We will continue to be on strike till our demands are met."

At Aurangabad in Maharashtra, truck driver Syed Wajed said, "We are drivers, how can we pay such a huge fine?"

What's The Law, What's The Change

Hit-and-run accidents and death due to rash driving is covered under the law for causing death by negligence. In the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita. The law, which has received the President's assent after it cleared Parliament, has two clauses under Section 104. "Whoever causes the death of any person by doing any rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine," says the first clause.

"Whoever causes death of any person by doing any rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide and escapes from the scene of incident or fails to report the incident to a Police officer or Magistrate soon after the incident, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description of a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine," says the second.

Currently, hit-and-run accidents are covered by IPC's Section 304A. "Whoever causes the death of any person by doing any rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both," it states.

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