Since the imposition of the nationwide lockdown in wake of Covid-19, Sukhwinder Singh, who used drive taxis for a cab hailing company, has been sustaining his family by doing odd jobs and daily wage labour. His children, meanwhile, have been washing vegetables for street vendors to earn money.
“Things haven’t changed even after cab services resumed in the Tricity as I barely get any ride bookings. While before I used to get 15 to 20 rides a day, nowadays on a good day I get maximum of two bookings, some of which are from out of state,” says Singh, who is now earning around 200 rupees a day as compared to the 1,500 rupees he earned per day, earlier. On top of his expenses, Sukhwinder also has a loan to repay.
Like Singh, most cab drivers, who earned a decent livelihood before the lockdown, were financially hit due to the lockdown.
However, even after cab services resumed in the country, with operations in Chandigarh opening since Monday, and in Panchkula and Mohali since mid-May, drivers have had little to no income.
Jarnail Singh, who drives an SUV for Ola cabs, has had no booking since services resumed in Mohali.
“I get a few calls from out of state or booking later at night close to the curfew timing but I can’t attend them, so I have had no income,” says Jarnail, whose family is living off his wife’s income for the time being.
Safety measures in cabs
Cab companies have aggressively advertised and communicated the safety measures they are placing in their cabs and for their drivers, ever since services resumed.
“Of course we have had a hit in business, but we have taken all measures to ensure the safety of our customers and drivers so I am sure slowly business will resume per usual,” said a spokesperson for Uber.
Uber has put in place a slew of safety measures, which include a mandatory mask policy, a limit of two passengers per ride- both of whom have to be seated at the back, and regular sanitisation of cars.
“We also have an updated cancellation policy where drivers and riders can cancel trips if they don’t feel safe, including if a user is not wearing a mask or face cover. Furthermore, we have distributed safety supplies like masks, hand sanitisers and disinfectants to all our driver partners, free of cost,” added the spokesperson.
Other cab companies like Ola claim that they have distributed protective equipment for free to their drivers. Ola has also guaranteed that all cars under their service will be fumigated thrice a week.
Long wait at airports
Though airports would normally be a profitable hub for cab drivers, cabbies state that they barely get any bookings at the Chandigarh airport even after flights resumed. Tejinder Singh, who has been driving for Uber since the past two years, says he has been waiting at the airport for hours without a booking since the past week.
“All passengers coming back home call their own cars to the airport. They are worried about their safety and they don’t want to use cabs anymore,” says Tejinder.
On top of everything, the cab driver has to pay Rs 30 for sanitising their car at the airport, Rs 100 as parking charges and Rs 10 for each extra hour they spend in the airport.
“I am at the airport from 10 am and 5 pm. I spend Rs 200 every day and I don’t even get a single booking,” added Tejinder, who has been forced to borrow money to sustain his family.
No support for drivers
During the lockdown, when they had no source of livelihood, cabbies claim that their employers offered little to no economic support to them. Jarnail states that he received Rs 500 per week for a period of three weeks from Ola, but as a loan. “I got Rs 1,500, but I have to pay it back to them,” says Jarnail.
Meanwhile, Tejinder claimed he got no support whatsoever from Uber. Both the cab drivers had also bought their cars by taking a loan which they have to repay without access to a steady income.
The spokesperson from Uber stated that the company had collected funds for the Uber Driver Care fund which they distributed to over 90,000 drivers during the lockdown.
“Other forms of our support to drivers during these challenging times include a waiver of lease rentals, facilitating EMI relief, rolling out an additional insurance policy and offering drivers access to online medical services, such as DocsApp, at no charge,” added the spokesperson.
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