Kadiyala Kaleshwar of Balapur’s Lenin Nagar in Hyderabad is hoping for some good news. In last week’s sudden and unprecedented rains that flooded several low-lying areas of Hyderabad, the 32-year-old haplessly watched his car being swept away from outside his home by the strong currents of gushing water.
Kaleshwar, who used to be a driver for IT companies in the city, had been reeling under the coronavirus lockdown, lack of earning, and now the flash floods, according to him, just dealt him the last blow. Along with the house, the water snatched away his livelihood, too. In the absence of insurance for vehicles damaged in natural disasters, he is among several cab drivers in need for financial assistance from the government to jumpstart his life.
A driver since 2007, it was only after his marriage in 2018 that Kaleshjwar decided to buy a vehicle. Between April and August this year, his 2019-model Mahindra Xylo had remained parked outside his house.
“Since most people now work from home, we do not have many trips. I was hardly getting four to five private trips a month before last week’s floods. Since the six months moratorium lifted in August, I have not paid the monthly EMI of Rs 24,000. And now they have doubled the interest, too,” he says.
Kaleshwar, who lives with his aged parents, wife, and younger brother, says he would earn Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 after 20-22 days of work every month. “Now, we are struggling to meet my father’s monthly medical expenses. Who had thought coronavirus and floods would turn our lives upside down?”
After the floodwaters receded from the neighbourhood, the car is now at a mechanic’s shed. “I have borrowed Rs 1 lakh at three per cent for repairs. And I don’t even know how I will pay up in 3 months. There is no insurance for damage to vehicles in floods. Any help from the government is our last hope,” he says.
Rudra Chakrapani had gone to the Tirupati temple to pray for a new beginning when he heard from his family of waters submerging his house and their Toyota Innova. Forty-eight-year-old Chakrapani, a driver since 1998, now makes a daily visit to their double-bedroom house in Pragathi Nagar of Medipally on the city outskirts to check if anything remained of it.
“Not once, but twice was our house submerged in a matter of days. The water from Chengicherla lake rose to 8 feet in just 15 minutes. We have lost everything. The thought of having to start from scratch is killing me,” says Chakrapani.
Driving the car on outstation trips, Chakrapani used to earn between Rs 25,000 and Rs 30,000 a month after other expenses. Since lockdown, the family has been struggling to make ends meet.
His wife says: “We don’t even know how to continue my children’s education. We have not paid our house rent for six months. We do not even know when we could even go back to our house.”
The car left in a garage, and Chakrapani, along with family, now stays at his in-laws in Boduppal.
Following the flash floods, Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao pegged the total losses in floods at Rs 5,000 crore. The CM then announced financial assistance of Rs 10,000 as immediate relief to each household affected by floods. The state would give Rs 1 lakh to families whose houses were fully damaged. Those houses partially damaged would be given Rs 50,000, as per the CM’s announcement.
When it poured 32.4 cm in Ghatkesar on October 13, the city received an average rainfall of 17 cm in less than 24 hours. Several localities, especially around the old city submerged. Disturbing scenes of vehicles washed away emerged from colonies like Hafeez Baba Nagar, Al Jubail colony, Omer colony, Balapur, and LB Nagar.
Shaik Salauddin, the chairman of Telangana Taxi and Drivers’ Joint Action Committee, points out that repairs to flood-affected cars would cost anything between Rs 30,000 and Rs 2 lakh. “As of now, 300 cab drivers have approached me. There should be 1,000 to 1,500 cabs and taxis damaged and over 4,000 contract vehicles like autorickshaws, goods carriers, and DCM vans that have been damaged in the floods,” says Salauddin.
As the government has already announced flood relief, Salauddin is seeking assistance of Rs 50,000 for cabs with minor damages, Rs 1 lakh for vehicles with major damages, and replacement for vehicles fully damaged.
“My pride does not allow me to ask anyone for help. We hope the government would announce assistance for repairs of cabs and taxis because that is our livelihood,” adds Chakrapani.
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