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Thursday, April 22, 2021

Wheels stuck, but worries are many for Ola, Uber drivers

The transport sector is one of the many areas which has been hit by the ongoing restrictions, aimed to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Among the affected most are the cab drivers, who had taken loans to buy vehicles to jump onto the bandwagon of online platforms of Ola and Uber

Written by Sofi Ahsan | Chandigarh |
April 4, 2020 3:58:02 am
coronavirus, coronavirus in chandigarh, india lockdown, ola, uber, ola drivers, uber drivers, indian express news The drivers are not per se employees of the companies like Ola and Uber. (File)

AS SOON as their wheels came to a grinding halt due to the lockdown, their concerns saw a surge. 41-year-old Tajinder Singh, a cab driver, has a loan to pay off, refill his monthly supply of prescription and also feed his family. However, there is neither a rush of customers now, nor any surge pricing on apps of the riding sharing company he works for.

The transport sector is one of the many areas which has been hit by the ongoing restrictions, aimed to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Among the affected most are the cab drivers, who had taken loans to buy vehicles to jump onto the bandwagon of online platforms of Ola and Uber.

“We can pay the installments as long as the wheels are running, but it is not the only thing. The installments can be paid later too. The daily expenditure is much more. The rates in the market have doubled. I had to borrow money to buy my monthly medicine for diabetes,” said Tajinder, a Mohali resident,

Tajinder had taken a loan of Rs five lakh in July 2018 to buy a four-wheeler and has had to pay an installment of Rs 13,360 each month since then. He hasn’t yet received any message from the bank regarding the three-month moratorium on loans, ordered by the government. In a single day he would earn upto Rs 2,000 a day, which was enough to admit his children to a private school and feed his family of four comprising wife and two children.

“Our earnings are of daily nature. It can sustain us for 10-15 days,” said Tajinder, adding, “it is a matter of life and death outside so nobody can say anything for sure when it will end. I live in a city and I may survive. But off it goes on for long what will happen to those in far
off places.”

The drivers are not per se employees of the companies like Ola and Uber. Among the two ride-hailing companies, Ola has started a crowdsourcing campaign to help its drivers and the company had raised a total of Rs 24,20,42,534 against a target of Rs 50,00,00,000, till Friday evening. However, none of the drivers, The Indian Express spoke to, said anything about receiving any such
message yet.

Jarnail Singh used to work at a digital photo lab in Chandigarh before 2015. When Ola was introduced in 2014, he took the decision to buy a vehicle and start earning through this modern medium. Due to the outbreak of coronavirus and consequent steps taken by the authorities to control it, his vehicle is idle right now. On April 15, he may have to pay Rs 10,000 towards the loan taken in November 2019 for his new vehicle.

“I cannot pay it. We have to manage our survival too under these circumstances,” said Jarnail, “I haven’t received any information from the bank. There is confusion too regarding the order passed by the government.”

During normal days, he earns Rs 1,500-2,000 a day after a number of rides and most of his earning go towards his children’s studies. One of his daughters is pursuing a Bachelors in biotechnology at a college in Chandigarh and his son is studying in class XI. His other daughter is pursuing a Masters degree in Commerce through correspondence.

33-year-old Satwinder Gill has been on Ola and Uber platforms for the past five years and earns sufficient money to feed his family of five – his parents, wife and a child. He had taken a loan of Rs ten lakh when he started and he continues to pay Rs 16,000 each month to the bank.

“It is impossible to pay it when everything stops. Our earning is not that much to have enough savings to continue sitting at home. The government has allowed us to not pay EMIs for three months but it should end soon so we can restart our lives,” said Gill.

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