TIRUCHY: Purchasing two-wheelers for commuting during the COVID-19 crisis is not an option for many daily wage labourers. After public transport was suspended, they have been forced to travel on foot or occasionally hitched a free ride if they were lucky.
"People do not give us free lifts fearing they would contract the virus," said Senthil, a daily wage labourer. He walks 8-10 km from his house in Somrasampettai to an eatery in the city where he works.
However, another viable option has emerged in the form of used or rented bicycles. Bicycle repair shops in the city are getting inquiries for used cycles.
"I get 3-4 orders for used cycles every day. Most of them are from daily wage labourers who cannot afford two-wheelers due to high fuel prices. Also, a used motor bike in good condition costs around Rs 15,000 whereas used cycles are available from Rs 1,000 which seems a viable choice for them," said Selvan, who runs a cycle repair shop in the city.
Some opt for rented bicycles. However, trust issues and previous bad experiences with customers have led to a few owners refraining from renting out bicycles.
"Earlier, I used to give 15 to 20 bicycles for rent. But, nowadays I am giving only five cycles as it is difficult to trace them if they fail to return it. I give only to those whom I know well. Usually, I charge about Rs 30 a day," said R Ravindran, who is running a cycle repair and rental shop in Srirangam for the past 40 years.
"I stopped renting out cycles almost two years back as I faced a heavy loss," said Sivakumar who is running a cycle repair shop. Some cycle repair shop owners also said the demand for rented or used vehicles would fade after public transport resumes. Until then, however, they remain a useful option for many workers.