BENGALURU: Thirty-five-year-old Prathapa has seen it all in his close to four years with a taxi aggregator company. From the heady days when he would earn upto Rs 60,000 per month, to having to be pulled over by the side of the road by financiers demanding he cough up the month’s equated monthly installment (EMI), Prathapa has braved it all. But not anymore as he is fed up with decreasing commissions eating into his income.
Prathapa is one of the many cab drivers in Bengaluru who will be making an exit from the taxi driving business. Like him, several other taxi drivers are watching their dreams come crashing down. Their main grouse is that in spite of fuel prices being hiked at regularly, their commissions and earnings from cab rides have not gone up at all.
“The increase in fuel price has eaten away into my earnings. Now, it is not possible to save enough to even live a hand-to-mouth existence, so the time has come to look for other options,” says the driver, who is a native of Mandya.
In April this year, the diesel prices stood at Rs 67 a litre. On Wednesday, this went up to Rs 76 a litre with the state government’s intervention to reduce fuel prices by Rs 2 by cutting state taxes amounting to precious little in savings for drivers as consequent hikes have swallowed this gesture. On an average, a driver could take home anything between Rs 25,000 to Rs 28,000 monthly, out of which a large chunk is dedicated to paying EMI’s. “I pay an EMI of around Rs 12,000 for my sedan. Around Rs 11,000 is for fuel with at least 160 litres required every month. Where is the money to live?” questions Hanumanthe Gowda, another driver.
To counter this, many drivers choose to stay up late and work extra hours. But this is not without its problems. “I am driving at least 15 hours a day, and once you make enough trips, you do not get bookings. I spend at least two hours every day waiting for bookings, which for me is lost time,” says Azad, another driver.
With no sign of the fuel prices dropping anytime soon, a few are contemplating selling their vehicles in order to get out of the business. “I’ll just have to look to drive for someone else for a monthly salary as owning and maintaining the car is no longer an option,” Azad said.
Government’s Airvatha scheme sees huge demand
In the midst of several drivers planning their exits from the taxi industry, the Airavatha scheme, under which the state government would provide a grant of Rs 5,00,000 to drivers as well as training, has seen a steady inflow of applications. The scheme, aimed at the youth of the SC/ST community, has received 6,000 applications within 8 days of its launch, according to Social Welfare minister Priyank Kharge.