BHUBANESWAR: Over 50,000 drivers under the banner of Odisha Driver Mahasangh carried out a massive padayatra in the capital city on Friday seeking fulfillment of their 10-point charter of demands including Covid warrior tag, minimum wage, pension, and insurance cover.
The drivers from different districts joined the padayatra from Palasuni to Chief Minister's residence Naveen Nivas. They, however, staged a dharna at Mahatma Gandhi Marg as the security personnel, deployed by the Commissionerate of Police, prevented them from marching further from the Station Square.
Security was tightened near the CM's residence to avoid any unpleasant situation during the mass rally.
Vehicular traffic was disrupted as the kilometers-long rally occupied a major portion of the National Highway (NH) 16 and Janpath Road in the city.
Members of the Mahasangh said even if transport service continued throughout the lockdown and shutdown period in Odisha and many drivers lost their lives to coronavirus on the line of duty, the state government didn't declare them as Covid warriors.
"Though we worked as frontline workers, no financial support was extended to us, unlike other Covid warriors," alleged one of the members of the Mahasangh.
Apart from seeking recognition as Covid warriors, the Mahasangh members demanded a minimum remuneration of Rs 15,000 to drivers of light vehicles and Rs 20,000 to heavy vehicles.
They also sought a monthly pension after 55 years of age, an insurance cover of Rs 20 lakh, Rs 5 lakh under affordable housing scheme, roadside restrooms and parking facility, and extension of validity of their driving license in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"We have also urged the government to make a provision of Rs 10 lakh financial assistance to the family of drivers who meet accidental death or sustain a critical injury in road mishaps," said Chaitan Pradhan, a member of the Mahasangh.
The Mahasangh alleged that the drivers were forced to launch the Padayatra from district level a week back after the state government failed to consider the grievances they had placed before the district administrations across Odisha on Drivers' Day on September 1.
The Mahasangh members threatened that their protest will intensify and they will boycott duty from November 20 if their demands are not met within three weeks.