Gadchiroli (Maharashtra): In an unusual development, a prominent truckers' organisation here has demanded compensation of at least Rs 3 crore for trucks that were burnt, besides four dozen trucks badly damaged, by irate mobs of villagers after an accident here on January 16, an office-bearer said here.
Kishore P. Rapelliwar, Vice-President of the Gadchiroli unit of the Alapalli Truck Owners Association (ATOA), said it has submitted a memorandum to the district collector, district superintendent of police and the local office of Mumbai-based mining company Lloyds Metals & Energy Ltd, (LMEL).
"We have lost 15 trucks which were reduced to ashes, and another around four dozen suffered minor to major damage," Rapelliwar told IANS.
He said that the collision between a mining truck and a State Transport bus on January 16, near Gurupalli village in Etapalli, killed four persons including two schoolchildren, sparking off huge public outrage in the area, infested by Maoists, in eastern Maharashtra as IANS had reported on January 16.
"As other trucks stopped on the road and helped the victims in the ST bus on humanitarian grounds, a large mob suddenly appeared from some adjoining villages, started pelting stones and torching our trucks," Rapelliwar rued.
The trucks were carrying iron ore mined by the Lloyds company and as one of them negotiated a blind curve, the ST bus suddenly appeared, leading to a head-on collision.
This was the second major loss suffered by the truckers of Gadchiroli in the past over three years. On December 23, 2016, over 500 suspected Maoists had attacked and burnt 75 trucks and heavy vehicles like earth-movers - all hired on contract - besides a couple of private vehicles in the vicinity of the Lloyds mining complex.
Rapelliwar explained that a majority of the trucks are hypothecated against loans to banks or finance companies.
The ATOA has given a week's ultimatum to the police to nab the culprits and book them, and demanded that the collector should take up the issue of compensation with Lloyds, failing which the truckers would launch an agitation from next week.
A high-ranking official from Lloyds, speaking on condition of anonymity, informed IANS that while they sympathised with the truckers' plight, the company could not be held responsible for the losses that happened outside on the roads.