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Indian road transport unions successfully push back against anti-worker legislation

news 28 Feb 2024

In an important victory for trade unions in India, the Modi Government has announced it will not implement the ‘Hit and Run’ provision of the new criminal law (BNS), which is set to go into effect on 1 July 2024. 

After large scale protests by affiliated unions to the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and other unions on 16 February, the Indian Government announced it has put implementation of the problematic section 106(2) of Bhartiya Nyay Sanhita on hold, until further consultation with the All India Motor Transport Congress – an industry association – takes place.  

This is a victory for road transport unions in India, including ITF affiliates in the country who organised extensive action against the clause, including industrial action and hunger strikes.

ITF’s Inland Transport Sections Secretary, Noel Coard, said: “This is a step in the right direction for thousands of drivers and unions who organised and protested against Section 106(2) of the new law on a very large scale.”  

“ITF affiliates have been tirelessly protesting this provision, which unfairly penalises drivers with severe prison sentences and fines, through industrial action, mass protests, and hunger strikes. But this fight is not over.” 

“The ITF is calling on the Modi government to fully repeal the provision, and consult with unions as well as other stakeholders. Workers and unions who represent the road transport workers are best placed to assist the government in developing fundamental solutions to the issues of decent work and road safety. Unless we address vast infrastructural issues and introduce fair and safe pay, decent working conditions and other protections for drivers caught up in unrelenting supply chain pressures, there will be no real progress,” said Coard. 

The law, previously introduced without consultation with unions, failed to recognise that road accidents are often caused by low pay and unsafe working conditions. Indian road transport workers are under extreme pressure to meet unsafe deadlines, and speed and overload their vehicles just to feed their families. 

In September 2023, the ITF launched a global ‘Safe Rates’ campaign, which calls on governments and industry stakeholders to implement legal reforms like those recently passed in Australia and other countries, create safe, fair and decent standards for workers in order to reduce road transport accidents and increase industry sustainability.