Many Indian states, including Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh, have seen widespread protests by bus drivers in response to a newly passed hit-and-run law under the Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita (BNS), 2023. A three-day protest against the “stringent provision” was started by truckers in many states on Monday, January 1, which caused concern over potential effects on the fuel supply.
The protests are against the law which imposes severe penalties on drivers involved in hit-and-run instances, including up to 10 years in prison or a fine of Rs 7 lakh. However, before the new criminal law of BNS, 2023, the Indian Penal Code’s Section 304A exposed those involved in hit-and-run incidents to prosecution, with a maximum sentence of only two years in prison upon identification and conviction.
But the demonstrations, spearheaded by truckers and commercial vehicle drivers, have seriously blocked roads and upset petroleum supply systems.
A new clause of the law led to a protest
Under the BNS, a hit-and-run offender faces a maximum sentence of 10 years or a fine of Rs 7 lakh.
Drivers who cause catastrophic accidents and then escape the scene without notifying the authorities risk harsh consequences.
Maharashtra: The new hit-and-run rule in Maharashtra has provoked complaints, especially from truck drivers. Concerns have been raised by the Maharashtra Food, Civil Supplies, and Consumer Protection Department about how the agitation is harming the availability of necessary petroleum goods. The agency has asked the police to ensure that petrol, diesel, and LPG cylinders are available despite truckers’ continuous strikes and road blockades.
The Maharashtra Food, Civil Supply, and Consumer Protection Department spokesman said, “The disturbance is affecting the supply chain, and we implore the police to step in to prevent any further disruptions in the availability of essential commodities.”
Jammu and Kashmir: At a petrol station in Pahalgam, the vehicles are arranged in a queue. While truckers are protesting a provision in the new penal legislation governing hit-and-run traffic accident cases, motorists are complaining about gasoline shortages.
Rajasthan: There have been demonstrations against the strict hit-and-run laws on Rajasthani roadways, which have disrupted several traffic routes. The agitation presented difficulties for private bus companies, trucks, and highway buses. Numerous routes experienced traffic bottlenecks. Roadway bus operations were initially disrupted and only resumed following police intervention.
Gujarat: The new Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita’s severe punishments have sparked widespread protests in Gujarat. Protesters blocked highways through the districts of Kheda, Valsad, Gir Somnath, Bharuch, and Mehsana by parking cars and setting fire to tyres on main thoroughfares.
Due to roadblocks on important thoroughfares, the truckers’ demonstrations in Gujarat have made it more difficult to move petroleum products.
Madhya Pradesh: According to a transporters’ organization, the walkout by truck drivers against a new penal code provision about hit-and-run incidents involving drivers has impeded the flow of about five lakh trucks in the state.
On Tuesday morning, drivers failed to run the inter-city buses, leaving a large number of passengers stuck at the Inter-State Bus Terminus (ISBT) in the state capital of Bhopal. Some commuters reported having trouble getting from Bhopal to Indore.
However, according to the administrations of several MP districts and significant cities under their purview, including Bhopal, Indore, Gwalior, and Jabalpur, there was no petrol shortage at petrol stations.
In protest against a clause in the new penal code, commercial vehicle drivers, including those of trucks and tankers, halted working in various areas of Madhya Pradesh on Monday and blocked some roadways.
Punjab: Drivers backed up at petrol stations across Punjab and Haryana on Tuesday, worried that supplies would soon run out as truckers avoided the highways in protest of the new law’s harsher penalties for hit-and-run incidents.
Private bus companies and a few auto-rickshaw unions in Haryana have also joined the demonstration against the new law, and some petrol stations in Ambala have reported fuel shortages. The twin states’ joint capital, Chandigarh, also witnessed panic fuel purchases by auto owners.
According to Rajesh Kumar, secretary general of the Punjab Petroleum Dealers Association, there are approximately 4,000 petrol stations in the province, and since Monday, the agitation has impacted the state’s fuel supply.
Chhattisgarh: In protest of the hit-and-run laws, more than 12,000 private bus drivers in the state called in sick, causing a major disruption in transport services in the state. Driver dissatisfaction led to the growth of the steering chhodo andolan’ movement, which advocates leaving the steering wheel.
As part of the “steering chhodo andolan,” about 1 lakh drivers have begun a protest. “We will keep protesting until this provision is removed,” said Jitendra Shukla, the convener of the Vahan Chalak Sangh in Chhattisgarh.
West Bengal: Drivers of commercial buses and trucks have staged protests at various locations in West Bengal, voicing their opposition to the new hit-and-run rule. Commutators experienced disruptions due to the unrest, which also had an impact on the movement of products.
The drivers of trucks and commercial buses are participating in a large-scale protest that we are seeing. To keep transport operating normally, it is imperative to listen to their concerns and come to a compromise,” a West Bengali municipal official said.
Widespread demonstrations against the new hit-and-run law have affected the fuel supply and caused disruptions in several states. Discussions between government representatives and protesting drivers are critical to addressing concerns and maintaining a balance between road safety and the interests of commercial vehicle operators, even as authorities strive to ensure a seamless flow of necessities.