Caution, bumpy ride ahead in cabs during COVID-19 pandemic

Manoj, a driver who works with both Ola and Uber, revealed that all that he has received is a mask and a bottle of hand sanitiser.

Published: 15th June 2020 04:26 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th June 2020 04:26 AM   |  A+A-

Drivers say they have to bear the partition costs and have no money to do so

Express News Service

BENGALURU: Careless use of masks by the drivers, absence of screen partitions, rolled-up windows... While cab aggregators like Ola and Uber have sought to allay customers’ fears through assurances regarding safety measures around COVID-19, commuters say their experience shows that there’s a lot left to be desired Shubam Sinha, a sales executive, said he has come across only a few cabs with protective screens.

He added, “Advertisements show them following a five-step process but one cannot see the transparency here,” he says. Another regular commuter says there is no consistency in the way the guideline are followed.

“Out of the seven rides I have taken so far, I found only three drivers wearing a mask at all times. Most of them leave it hanging around their neck or chin. The seats still have cloth covers that are difficult to clean. Some drivers said they have been given masks and sanitisers by the firm, but protective screens have been installed only in company-owned vehicles,” he said. 

Manoj, a driver who works with both Ola and Uber, revealed that all that he has received is a mask and a bottle of hand sanitiser.

“Since I have my own vehicle, I have to install the screen myself but that is difficult since my earnings have been low. Uber provides sanitisation only at the airport. But what about the other times?,” he questioned.

According to an Uber spokesperson, “We recently introduced a checklist and a mandatory mask policy for both riders and drivers, pre-trip mask verification selfies for drivers, mandatory driver education around COVID-19 related safety protocols, and an updated policy where both riders and driver can cancel trips if they don’t feel safe.”

This is in addition to distribution of 30 lakh masks and 2 lakh bottles of disinfectants and sanitisers for drivers free of cost.

The spokesperson, however, gave no specific details about how many drivers have been provided the protective plastic sheet. Ola has issued similar guidelines. In a statement, the company said, “We have mandated all vehicles to be fumigated every 48 hours across any of the 500 fumigation centres where driver-partners will also get their health checked. We have mandated installing a plastic screen between the passenger and the driver-partner sections across all our offerings.”

Commuters, however, point out that only a tiny percentage of vehicles seem to have the partitions in place. 

Rakesh (name changed on request), an auto driver with Ola, said the cost of the partition was borne by him and he still awaits reimbursement. Tanveer Pasha, president, Ola Uber Drivers and Owners’ Association, said people continue to avoid using the service.

“The advertisements differ from reality. Companies are in a hurry to resume services and drivers are in dire need to earn money. We have to fix immediate sanitisation alternatives that the driver can utilise after every ride but I don’t see anything concrete being implemented,” he added. As fear continues to grip commuters, many still refrain from using the services. For techie Tushal Wilson, taking a cab is a complete no.

“The guidelines aren’t followed by everyone, and providing hand sanitiser isn’t enough,” he says. 


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