At a time when the entire country is under lockdown and the government is urging people to remain indoors, there are some who have to step out to keep our lives going. It would hardly be wrong to say that they play a key role in ensuring ‘normalcy’ in these trying times.
I am talking about truck drivers.
Truck drivers have the responsibility of ferrying essential goods to the people. They have no choice of working from home if they want to earn. Since I have worked in logistics industry, I have closely observed the lives of truck drivers.
In India, a truck driver’s life is hardly easy. It’s easy to romanticise the idea of taking to the open road, but truck drivers have to put up with very trying conditions. In fact, suffering, adjustment and torture are part and parcel of their daily lives. Most of them don’t even have homes to go back to and spend most of their time on road.
To put it simply, their lives aren’t easy even under normal circumstances. And in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, things have got worse.
When it was imminent that a lockdown was going to be announced, I came across a goods truck driver, who was nonchalantly taking a nap under his truck. When I asked him if he was aware of the virus and the impending lockdown, he appeared clueless, and said that whatever the situation may be, things wouldn’t change for him at least.
Recently, when I went out to buy some essential items, I saw a group of truck drivers trying to fix a punctured tyre. I couldn’t resist and walked up to them to understand the situation. They told me that they were carrying coal to a power plant when the tyre got punctured and since they couldn’t find any mechanic in the vicinity, they took it upon themselves to fix it.
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When I asked them how they get food during these times, they said that they have started carrying their tiffins since all dhabas are shut. They said that they manage with that food for as long as possible, and then leave everything to god.
While the government, they say, isn’t providing them with food or any kind of assistance, help clubs and individuals have been helping.
Besides the ordeals of travelling long distances in the middle of a lockdown, the truck drivers also have to put up with alienation. One of the drivers said that people have started seeing them as criminals; they are despised and looked upon as carriers of the virus. He said that one day, when they reached one of the stops where they usually have tea, the owners gave them a cold look.
People’s behaviour, they say, has drastically changed. Although they have to undergo repeated physical screenings while crossing state borders, people continue to look at them with contempt and distrust.
Truck drivers play a significant role in ensuring that the key logistics performance indicators are doing well. But today, in the times of distress, they continue to do their jobs irrespective of the difficulties and challenges they face. They are the ones who are keeping the hub-and-spoke models intact, even in this time of emergency. Shouldn’t we be thankful to them?
We need to mull some questions. Do truck drivers deserve such behaviour from our end? At a time when most of us are safe at home, do you know how the most needed consumer goods and pharmaceutical products are reaching us? What if truck drivers stop working and go into lockdown mode?
What will happen then?
Featured image credit: PTI