HYDERABAD: The second Covid-19 wave, which has resulted in subdued commuter movement in the city, has come back to haunt thousands of auto, cab, and bike drivers working for appbased cab aggregators like Ola and Uber. The Telangana State Taxi and Drivers Joint Action Committee, along with many other associations, have put out their demands asking cab service companies and the State Transport Department to provide Covid relief for drivers. The association claims that if their demands are not met, they will boycott these apps as a mark of protest on May Day. Last year was already a bumpy ride for scores of drivers in the city, with skyrocketing fuel prices and decreasing work demand due to the pandemic.
The new wave has only added to their woes. “As soon as the lockdown was imposed in 2020, we were left without any work for almost two months. Even when Unlock started, there was no demand at all with IT companies working from home and schools and colleges remaining shut. Many of our drivers had to sell their vehicles during this time as they could not pay their EMIs. I had little hope that this nightmare would be over. I used up all my savings to pay the EMI for my car and just when the business had started to pick up a few months ago, it all came crumbling down with this second wave. Now, my savings are exhausted and there is no work. I fear for the survival of my family,” said M Ashim (name changed), who has been working as a cab driver for the last 10 years.Speaking to Express, many other drivers across various platforms lamented that many have been forcedto leave the profession and head back to their native villages, or do multiple odd jobs to feed their families.
‘Govt, cab service providers must provide Covid relief’
Shaik Salauddin, chairman of the Telangana State Taxi and Drivers Joint Action Committee, said that at this time of crisis cab service providers and the State government should come forward to provide help to thousands of drivers left in the lurch. The JAC has demanded that companies fix the fare to not less than Rs 17-Rs 22 per km and reduce the commission amount from 25 per cent to 5 per cent.
The firms should also allow drivers to withdraw their earnings towards the evening and pay extra for far-off customer pick-ups. He added, “There are around 1 lakh cab and taxi drivers in Hyderabad, of which three have died and 3,096 been infected with Covid so far. However, no health benefits have been given to any of them. So, we demand that the companies bear the hospital expenses of the drivers and provide them with compensation.” Calling for a protest, he said that if the firms do not respond to their demands, all drivers will launch a protest by boycotting the apps on May 1.
Drivers’ JAC calls for protest tomorrow
The Telangana State Taxi and Drivers Joint Action Committee stated that if the demands of drivers are not met, they would boycott app-based cab aggregators as a mark of protest on May 1