MUMBAI: Truck drivers staged 'rasta roko' protests at many places in Maharashtra on Monday against the stringent punishment and "steep" fine prescribed for motorists under the hit-and-run provision in the new penal law.
In Navi Mumbai, a policeman was injured when a group of truckers attacked him in Nerul in the morning hours, prompting police to use force to disperse the mob gathered on the Mumbai-Bengaluru Highway, an official said.
Truck drivers tried to block traffic on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Highway in the Mira Bhayandar area in Thane district and hurled stones at police personnel, leaving a policeman injured.
A police vehicle was damaged in stone pelting.
Road blockade protests were also held in Solapur, Kolhapur, Nagpur and Gondia districts, officials said, adding that the situation in Navi Mumbai and other places is under control.
In Nashik district in north Maharashtra, tanker drivers stopped work and parked more than 1,000 vehicles in Panewadi village, home to fuel depots, on Monday.
Panewadi village in Nandgaon taluka has fuel depots of Bharat Petroleum, Hindustan Petroleum and Indian Oil and LPG filling stations, and fuel from these depots is transported to various parts of the state.
"If the agitation is not called off, many fuel stations in Nashik district will run dry as they are not allowing dealers to fill their tankers. The gates have been closed and not a single tanker was allowed to carry fuel," Nashik District Petrol Dealers Association president Bhushan Bhosale said.
Under the Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita (BNS), which replaced the colonial era Indian Penal Code, 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.
"A policeman was injured when a group of motorists attacked him near NRI police station in Nerul in Navi Mumbai. When police personnel reached the spot and tried to speak to truckers about the new law, some of them became violent, forcing us to use force to bring the situation under control," a police official said.
He said protesters hurled stones at police personnel and used wooden sticks to attack them.
At least 40 truck drivers were detained, the official said, adding that six persons involved in beating up the policeman have been identified.
In Kalamboli area, also in Navi Mumbai, at least 400 people gathered on the Mumbai-Bengaluru highway and staged a rasta roko for the withdrawal of the new provision in the penal law in the afternoon, police said.
Similar agitations were also held on the Uran-Nhava Sheva Road in Raigad district on the border of Mumbai.
In Mira Bhayandar suburb of Thane district, seven truckers have been detained and the process to register a case is underway, he added.
Meanwhile, an association of petrol pump dealers in Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar city in Marathwada region said fuel pumps in the district may go dry by Tuesday if the situation does not normalise.
"Drivers of tankers that carry fuel from Panewadi (in Nashik) have called for agitation and have stopped filling fuel. Around 900 to 1,200 tankers carry fuel from depots of oil companies and transport it to Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar, Jalna, Dhule, Jalgaon and other districts," Aqeel Abbas Secretary of Petroleum Dealers Association said.
Some petrol pumps in Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar have already stopped functioning, he said.
One of the protesting tanker drivers, Syed Wajed said, "As per the new law, the hit-and-run cases can attract up to 10 years jail term and a fine of Rs 7 lakh.
We are drivers, how can we pay such a big fine amount?" Amid protests by truckers, the Congress on Monday demanded that the Centre withdraw the provision on hit-and-run cases in the new penal law.
"This provision is unjust and harsh on motorists. Truck drivers, car drivers and even two-wheeler riders are afraid to drive because of this provision," Maharashtra Congress chief Nana Patole told reporters in Mumbai.
He alleged that "146 MPs" from the Opposition camp were suspended from Parliament in the recent session to clear this "oppressive black law".
"The Congress will support truck drivers protesting against the new provision under the Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita," he said.
In Nagpur district, hundreds of protesters blocked the Nagpur-Bhandara Road by staging protests in Khapri, Warud, Kalamna and Pardi areas, officials said.
The agitations were held under the aegis of an organisation supported by Shiv Sena (UBT).
A Shiv Sena (UBT) leader said the legal provision was brought in hastily and without holding discussions with transporters' organisations.
"The punishment is very harsh in the new law. It should be stayed," he added.