The Indian government, led by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), strengthened its decision to ‘stay home and stay safe’ for the people. It has now imposed a 21-day lockdown to stop spreading coronavirus cases further in India. Employees of companies were already asked to work from home. They are also assured of monthly salaries. However, the drivers of cab service providers like Ola and Uber are left behind as they are not their employees. In result, they are running out of money because of this prolonged lockdown.
On 22 March 2020, Prime Minister Narendra had imposed Janta Curfew to avoid an increase in the positive cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19). It was expected that people across India would continue avoiding socialising and gatherings. However, people were not taking it seriously especially at the places where illiteracy is high. That is the reason, the Prime Minister has imposed a 21-day lockdown that came into effect from today, 25 March 2020. At the time of writing, the number of deaths in India due to coronavirus (COVID-19) was 9 and positive cases have risen to 562.
The lockdown and ‘stay home and stay safe’ idea is affecting the daily wage earners. The Ola and Uber drivers also fall under this category. According to 2019 industry estimate, Ola and Uber have more than 30 lakh drivers across India. Which means, more than 30 lakh drivers are struggling to manage household expenses because of lockdown.
No money to run a household
Meraj Ali Shaikh, 28-year-old, from Mumbai, has been driving an Ola cab for four years. He earns Rs. 700-800 a day. However, as coronavirus stepped into India and people started taking self-isolation seriously he faced a financial crisis. “It was tough to earn even Rs. 500 a day. Now this curfew has been imposed that reduced our income to zero,” said Meraj.
Meraj stays in a joint family having 14 members. He has two brothers, but nowadays, nobody is earning due to lockdown. In result, he is borrowing money from others to run the household. “We are a middle-class family. We have food on the table the day we work. I am scared because I cannot borrow money from others for a long time,” added Meraj.
Digvijay Pandey, 34-year-old Uber driver from Lucknow said that the earnings had been reduced by 80% per cent when there was no complete lockdown. When he realised that he can’t cope with household expenses in Lucknow due to low income, he left Lucknow and went to his native place Gonda.
“We have rice, daal, wheat and other essential items in stock at my native place. It will help my family to fill the stomach thrice a day, for a few days,” told Digvijay.
Farhan Ansari from Mumbai whose five cabs are attached to Ola said, “For now I have money to bear household expenses. But, if it (lockdown) gets extended then I will be left with no option. We can’t ask for help from others because everybody is facing the financial crisis.” Farhan said this before the 21-day lockdown was imposed.
Suspend loan EMIs and free coronavirus checkup
Farhan has to pay Rs. 13000 as loan EMI every month. He said they will have some relief even if the EMI is suspended until the coronavirus passes. “However, the Indian government is yet to come up with any such decision. We can’t sit home empty stomach,” added Farhan. All the drivers of Ola and Uber agreed to this that the EMIs should be suspended.
“Government and banks should think of it and understand the situation of people like us. How can we arrange money for EMIs if we don’t work? We are even struggling to feed our family,” said Haroon Shaik, 34-year-old Ola driver from Mumbai. Haroon has to pay Rs. 14000 as monthly EMI for the car he has bought and attached to Ola.
Meraj said that not only EMIs should be suspended, but coronavirus check-up should also be free for people who can’t afford it. “We are in so much financial crisis that if we are infected with coronavirus we will not go to the hospital because of the checkup expenses,” said Meraj.
He went on saying that the state governments and politicians should take an initiative to survey and make sure that nobody is left helpless. “MLAs should take responsibility for their respective areas and help every needy person. If they don’t help us now then when they are going to help us?” asked Meraj.