The struggle continues

Autorickshaw drivers were among the worst affected during the lockdown.


S. Manjunath and his family.

Akash khandke

Akash Umesh Khandke

Bengaluru: Shops and businesses, which suffered huge losses during the nation-wide lockdown owing to the global pandemic, are slowly getting back to near normal. However, the daily wage earners such as autorickshaw drivers, who were amongst the worst affected, are still facing its consequences.

During the lockdown for three months, autorickshaw drivers had no work. Some of them were dependent on the help of Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) and the local political leaders while others spent their hard-earned savings to survive during the hard times. But even after the lockdown is revoked, owing to the fear of infection, passengers are still maintaining ‘social distance’ from autorickshaws.

Nur Pasha Amjad, an autorickshaw driver from R.T. Nagar, says: “My autorickshaw was standing idle for almost three months. I couldn't digest the fact that I could not go out and earn my bread even though I was fit and ready to work. One day, out of frustration, I went out in the search of passengers. I was caught by the police. They seized my autorickshaw and imposed a fine of Rs 5000. I and my older brother are into this business. Before the lockdown, my parents had come to meet us. They stayed here for the next three months. We live in a small rented room. It was inconvenient for everyone, but we had no option. My younger brother, who lives at our native place, is helping us with the rent money. The local political leader distributed food and other essentials during the lockdown. It helped us survive during those three months when we had no income.”

P. Shrivinas, who is in this business for the last 30 years, exhausted all his savings during the lockdown. Before the lockdown, his daily earnings would cross Rs 1000 but now he hardly earns Rs 200 a day. Currently, his son's salary is the primary source of income of his family. "My son works at a garment shop. He earns ₹9000 a month. Now, as my income is marginally low, he looks after all the expenses such as home rent, electricity, and hospital bills."

When the autorickshaw drivers are struggling to cope up with the situation, S. Manjunath saw a ray of hope in this business. He was a ladies’ tailor. But he switched to autorickshaw-driving as there were no takers for his tailoring skills during the pandemic. His wife sold her jewellery to arrange the sum for buying a second-hand autorickshaw. "All my customers were middle-class family women. During the pandemic people had no money to buy essential things; everyone was at home. In such a situation no one wanted new clothes. I had no work. So, I decided to switch my profession," said Manjunath.

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