August 17, 2022

Auto and taxi drivers face severe crunch amid the lockdown in Karnataka

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A day into the 14-day lockdown imposed in the state of Karnataka, has led to severe losses as no work and no pay for the auto-rickshaw drivers, much like the other occupations in the unorganized sector. Drivers have expressed their anguish about the instability adhering to the pandemic and lockdown.

R Naveen Shenoy, a 61-year old auto-driver based in Bengaluru said, “The wounds of the previous lockdown itself hadn’t healed. Many auto drivers are still paying off debts incurred during the previous lockdown. Auto and taxi drivers in general live hand to mouth and due to the night curfew imposed earlier, we had suffered a reduction in business. Now, with the lockdown, we don’t have a clue how we can sustain in the field or manage our monthly expenditure.”

The government had permitted movement of taxi and auto-rickshaw for emergency purpose amid lockdown, but Naveen mentioned it is possible to have the auto rickshaws operational based on the needs of the customers.

As per Naveen, auto rickshaw drivers are taken over against loans from finance firms and loan sharks. He iterated that these operators subject the drivers to harassment and repress the vehicles.

Anand Kumar, a 35-year old driver said, “o survive in Bengaluru, we need at least Rs 15,000 just for provisions and rent, above this we need to pay off EMI for our vehicle. With this lockdown I’m absolutely unsure what I can do. Our situation is like an animal left to die after its throat has been slit.”

Regarding the declaration of giving Rs 5,000 for every driver, Anand said, ““Let’s not talk about it at all! We never received that amount. Also, how would that miniscule amount possibly help in any way?”

Driver unions have asked for relief packages post declaration of another lockdown on Monday.

Tanveer Pasha, president of Ola Uber Drivers and Owners’ Association, said, “The state government is saying that these are tough rules and not calling it a lockdown despite it being one. In this situation we (drivers) need compensation, a waiver of interest on our vehicle loans, protection from loan recovery agents, free groceries and free medical facility. Auto and taxi drivers live hand to mouth and we are dependent on our daily work. If the government doesn’t provide relief, we will certainly take up agitation against the government.”

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