Nangloi-based Desraj, 29, has been a driver with app-based taxi service Ola for over a year and a half, and is the sole earning member in his family of four. However, with the lockdown, Desraj is out of work, and things have been rather difficult for him. For many, hope is dwindling as they continue parting with their meagre savings, and taxi drivers like Desraj are among those who are hardest hit. “Ever since the lockdown started, my family and I have been facing problems. I am utilising my minimal existing savings to buy food on credit from shopkeepers who know me personally.
My sister just delivered a baby, but had complications and had to undergo further treatment, entailing additional costs,” says Desraj, who had to reach out to the Ola Foundation as he could not afford to pay for his sister’s hospitalisation. Ola has formed ‘Drive the Driver Fund’ under the aegis of its social welfare arm, Ola Foundation.
The fund aims to support auto-rickshaw and taxi drivers across India, through contributions from the Ola group, investors and a crowdfunding platform for citizens and other institutions. Proceeds of the fund will be directed towards the welfare and upliftment of drivers and their families.
“The foundation covered the expenses of her pre-natal care, consultation and labour room charges. There were some additional charges due to her complications, which the foundation through its Drive the Driver Fund, provided a total expenditure of Rs 33,000 for the medical emergency,” adds Desraj.
Another Ola driver, Kuldeep Singh, 31, who lives with his father, wife, a brother and a son in Ghaziabad, has issues of his own. Singh’s father started to face breathing problems and chest pains five days ago, and had to be hospitalised. “It has been difficult to make ends meet due to the lockdown and I have taken credit from my friends and family to sustain my family.
My father was hospitalised when Ola stepped in and covered the hospitalisation costs of `8,000,” says Singh. Samshad, a 32-year-old driver from, Mumbai, lives with his mother who had started developing symptoms of cancer six months ago. He frantically took her from doctor to doctor to assess her symptoms, and three months ago she was diagnosed with cancer. To manage the treatment costs, he has borrowed from friends and relatives. The financial burden is crippling him. The situation for cabbies has clearly become untenable and they are all now looking forward to the lifting of the lockdown and getting back on the road.