|Commercial vehicle owners take out a torchlight procession in Ranchi on the eve of chakka jam on Sunday to protest against the government’s decision to ban old autos and buses. (Above) Members of Ranchi Abhibhavak Manch stage a demonstration near Albert Ekka Chowk. (Hardeep Singh)
Ranchi schools will largely stay closed on Monday, thanks to the statewide chakka jam called by transporters to protest against the government’s decision to ban old autos and commercial vehicles by July 31 for air pollution concerns, baring the capital’s vulnerability.
Jamshedpur and Dhanbad will fare far better.
The chhaka jam will have little impact in Jamshedpur. The Jamshedpur Truck and Trailer Owners’ Association contented itself with “moral support”, but added that commercial trucks and trailers would run. Though 100 buses will stay off the roads in the coal belt, sources said autos were new — petrol ones were phased out and diesel counterparts launched around eight ago — and so will run. In both cities, schools will stay open.
In the capital, it is a different story. The strike will hit bus services available from Ranchi to various destinations in the state and outside, as well as autos, trucks, mini trucks and commercial vehicles. “Except medical vans, all commercial vehicles, including milk vans, will not ply tomorrow,” said Uday Shankar Ojha, president of Jharkhand Truck Owners Association.
The strike will also affect office-goers and daily wage earners who depend solely on mini trucks, taxis, autos and buses to commute. Ranchi has 3,000 buses and 5,000 autos.
The call has a deeper resonance of a rift between the government and transporters.
The government decided not to renew the licences of vehicles more than 15 years old in pursuance of a Jharkhand High Court directive on May 15. The court order was based on a report of an expert panel that comprised the transport secretary, deputy commissioner, Ranchi Municipal Commission CEO, among others.
In response, transport associations said the blanket ban would affect the livelihood of thousands. Outfits such as Jharkhand Truck Owners’ Association, Jharkhand Bus Owners’ Association, Jharkhand Diesel Auto Chalak Sangh, Ranchi Mini Truck Owners’ Association and Hatia Goods Transport Association jointly called the chakka jam.
Jharkhand Bus Owners’ Association president Sacchidanand Singh even termed the state’s decision as “not legal”.
“A commercial vehicle can get a permit as long as it has a fitness certificate,” he said, adding the PIL filed in the high court that prompted the order pertained only to autos. “We will challenge the order in the high court,” he added.
Ranchi administration has tried to put on a brave front. DC Vinay Kumar Choubey said city buses would ply and they were firm about implementing the high court order.
Schools, however, have decided to take no chances. All DAV group schools will remain closed. Delhi Pubic School (DPS), Kairali school, Surendranath Centenary School, St Thomas, Sapphire International School, Oxford Public School, among others.
If school administrations are left stranded, equally disturbed are office-goers. “I have an urgent meeting at Ramgarh tomorrow, but god knows if I can make it,” said marketing executive Manoj Sinha.
Why will the chakka jam hit Ranchi the hardest?