As the Modi government attempts to impose the draconian new penal codes – the Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita, thousands of transport workers across the country have embarked on protests and strikes since January 1. The new criminal laws, which will have far reaching consequences on people’s liberty and rights were passed on December 20 by a parliament amid the large scale suspension of majority of opposition MPs.
Com. Dipankar, General Secretary of CP(ML) Liberation, expressing support to the transport workers’ protest noted that India's truck drivers are the first to come out in opposition to the draconian new legal architecture of the Modi government. Many provisions in the new penal code, euphemistically rechristened as the new Indian code of justice, are more draconian and arbitrary than the code it seeks to replace. We have so far been battling the threats posed by the farm laws and labour codes, let us now understand that the new codes represent the most lethal and all pervasive threats till date to India's existing civil liberties and political democracy.
As per the BNS, drivers who cause a serious road accident by negligent driving and run away without informing the police or any official from the administration can face punishment of up to 10 years or a fine of Rs 7 lakh. This penal provision heavily burdens the transport workers and is an attempt to exonerate the government from accidents due to poor road conditions and signalling and also the transport companies that force drivers to work for long time and low wages.
With 60% of freight traffic movement in the country dependent on road transport network, large number of transport workers face difficult challenges including overtime work and low wages that adversely impact the safety and security on roads. With the dilution of country’s labour laws by Modi government, the transport drivers have been further pushed into vicious cycle of exploitation. Furthermore, India's highways are often marred by shoddy construction and poor maintenance, many a time result of government-private contractor nexus.
The Modi government must withdraw amendments brought out in criminal laws.