TIRUCHY: Rising fuel prices and poor patronage have forced more than 15 per cent of autorickshaw drivers in Tiruchy district to give up their profession and pursue other alternatives for livelihood. With the rise in fuel price cited as a major reason, the drivers have urged the government to address their issues.
Even as the drivers were trying to tackle the blows delivered by the lockdown last year and the one this year, the fuel price hike came as the last straw on the camel's back, making it impossible for them to ply the service without incurring more loss.
This forced many of them to hike the fare, which, in turn, reduced patronage.
P Balasubramanian, an autorickshaw driver from Tiruchy, said, "On an average, we spend Rs 500 to 600 a day on fuel, but make only Rs 400. So, we are forced to shell out extra money if we ply our vehicle. Many of us are struggling to pay EMI or spend for maintenance of our autorickshaws."
"The rise in fuel prices has led to reduction in the number of vehicles at the stands. Already shouldering a
major financial burden, most of us have decided to temporarily give up this profession till the situation gets stabilised," he added.
M Mohamad Beersha, another autorickshaw driver from Tiruchy, said drivers, who bought their vehicles through private finance, are unable to pay EMI for the past two years. So, many of them had sold their autos and started driving rented vehicles or started looking at other opportunities.
"Many of us are driving under app-based services, which have not revised the fare as per the prevailing situation. So, we have to refrain from taking trips, as we have to spend from our pockets than what we earn. Most of our clients are women, and with the government initiating free bus travel for women, they
demand a drastic cut in the fare or simply don't take our services," he added.
S Manikandan, district secretary of CITU autorickshaw drivers association, said, "There are about 12,000 autorickshaws plying across the district. Over 40 per cent of them have temporarily refrained from making trips."
"Fifteen per cent of the drivers who took the total heat of the lockdown and fuel price surge have given up the work and sold their autos to repay debts. Situation is similar across the State. Unrevised decade-old fares are main reason for all the hardships the drivers are facing," Manikandan said.
"App-based private companies revise their fare only when the government revises the fare. The CITU will be submitting a petition to the government to revising the fare," he added.