Coronavirus Lockdown: On last week’s Wednesday, India went under a lockdownfor 21 days and the lockdown, though, was for a noble cause of containing the novel Coronavirus, but did come with a lot of complications.
One of this is the impact on the movement of goods across the value chain which is now withstanding the Home Ministry’s orders of 29th March which allowed transportation of both goods, both non-essential and essential.
The strictness of authorities including the police on enforcing the lockdown has impacted the matters adversely as it has resulted in the shortage of both the delivery executives and the labour for loading and unloading of the goods.
Also, the closed eating outlets which were the lifeline of the transportation system is now discouraging the drivers to hit the roads.
At any given point in the country, there are 12 lakh trucks with national permits that ply the Indian highways, but now only close to 1.2 lakh of those trucks are moving with goods. Also, around 5 lakh trucks are parked on the highways with nowwhere to go because of the lockdown.
The All India Transporters Welfare Association (AITWA) has requested the Indian Government to allow the driving licenses as e-passes for facilitating the swift movement of the commercial vehicles. It also seeks an insurance cover for the truck driver, cleaners, loaders, computer operators, and warehouse manager in line with what has already been announced for the public health workers.
AIWTA said, “An announcement requesting drivers to return trucks and serve the country should go from PMO (Prime Minister’s Office). It will have a huge impact,”. The association also added that the government should allow the opening of Dhabas at every 200 kilometres on the highways.
Looking at the ports, things are no different there. Following the pandemic, the shipping ministry has advised that the port authorities should invoke the force majeure clause in their contracts. The order said, “Ministry of Shipping has intimated major ports that covid-19 pandemic can be considered as a ‘natural calamity’ entitling invocation of ‘force majeure’. However, these orders do not impact or dilute the fact that each major port needs to remain operational during the covid-19 pandemic and continue cargo operations in all respects,”.
Though the government ha asked the shipping companies to not impose container detention charges on the export- import (EXIM) cargos during the lockdown in order to maintain the proper supply chain, and the sheer congestion at the Indian ports is imminent.
Having said this, the Indian Railways has a different story as it has started focusing on its freight services when the passenger trains have been stopped due to the lockdown. The national transporter has resumed its parcel trains but for only the essential goods and over short distances. The Indian Railways is also offering on-demand parcel train services for the e-commerce players as well as the local industries.
Where the freight operations in the country meet the bulk transportation demand of essential goods including food grains, sugar, salt, milk, edible oil, coal, vegetables, cement, and fruits, the parcel trains are transporting various items which are needed to be delivered in smaller quantities (comparatively).
During 30th March – 1st April, the Indian Railways had transported 7,195 wagon load of food grains, 3,314 wagon load of steel, 3,838 wagon load of petroleum, and 64,567 wagon load of coal.