Public and commercial transport drivers in Odisha, under the banner of Driver Ekata Manch, on Wednesday launched an indefinite strike over their 10 point charter of demands.
Despite the state government’s appeal, the drivers struck work and hit the streets, paralysing the public and commercial transportation in the state.
A large number of vehicle drivers resorted to road blockades on National Highways and major roads, demonstrations and picketing in different places across the state including capital city Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Bargarh, Deogarh, Koraput, Dhenkanal, Jajpur, Angul, and Dhenkanal.
The agitating drivers have been demanding pension after 60 years , death benefits, life insurance, social security, parking and toilet facility.
However, private bus owners, truck owners, auto-rickshaw drivers and online cab drivers are not supporting the agitation of the commercial transport drivers.
Odisha Driver Mahasangha President, Prasant Menduli said: “To put pressure on the state government over our long-pending demands, we have launched this peaceful protest. We are allowing all emergency service vehicles, school children and other people, who have an emergency, to move on the road.”
The agitation will continue until the state government accepts the demands and makes an announcement on this, he said.
Due to the protest, commuters including tourists were facing a lot of trouble to reach their destinations.
“I have arrived in Bhubaneswar this morning and am waiting for a bus to go to my village Betanati in Mayurbhanj district. Do not know when the bus service will resume,” a passenger said.
Similarly, another passenger — Arun Pradhan, who daily travels by bus from Cuttack to attend his office in Bhubaneswar, also faced problems.
Odisha Transport Minister Tukuni Sahu said: “We will form a high-level committee to look into the demands of the drivers. The state government has positive thinking towards their issues. We again appeal to the drivers to call off the strike as the Class 10 examination is going on.”
Official sources said a meeting between the Transport Minister and the office bearers of the Driver Ekata Manch was held on Tuesday but it remained inconclusive. Following which, they resorted to strike.
The state government has asked all districts to prepare a contingency plan to prevent inconvenience to the public during the strike.
Cuttack-Bhubaneswar Police Commissioner Soumendra Priyadarshi, said: “Strict action will be taken if any untoward situation is created on public roads or attempts are made to stop vehicular traffic.”
He has advised people to call 112, if anyone stops their vehicle.