Auto-rickshaws are an integral form of intermediate transport in Indian cities. It is hailed as the most economical and local way to commute and play a pivotal role in India’s transportation network. But, amid Covid-19 crisis, auto rickshaw drivers in Mangalore are struggling to make ends meet as very few people are stepping out of their houses. Also, the compulsion to follow social distancing norm and sanitize the vehicles to combat coronavirus have only added to their financial woes During the lockdown, they were not allowed to transit and in case of emergency they had to take permission before hand. After the lockdown, Public service vehicles, including autorickshaws, were allowed to ply on the city roads following relaxations. But with people still keeping indoors due to the coronavirus scare, autorickshaw drivers are finding passengers with much difficulty these days. Most of the auto drivers have taken loans from private financiers and they are now forcing them to return the loans. Auto drivers say that the loans were taken during lockdown to feed their family but now after the lockdown they have no steady income. Ravi, city auto driver, said, “ Earlier, I used to make around 600-1000 rupees but now due to Covid-19 people are scared to travel in an auto rickshaw. I have heard that a few auto drivers are modifying their rickshaws(isolation covers). But I do not have money to modify my rickshaw. I have loans to pay and also have to feed my family. What should we do?” “Even we are scared that unknown people sit in our rickshaw and we do not know whether they have Covid-19 or not. But it is our job, we too are risking our lives. Government must understand and provide us with some aid, “ he added Many auto drivers complain that they are being forced by financiers to pay the instalments of loans threatening to confiscate their vehicles. Also, a few auto rickshaw owners rent vehicles to other drivers in shifts, charging them on daily basis. But, in this situation, those auto drivers are incurring loss as they do not make much money to pay the daily rent. Although a few auto drivers keep sanitizers in their vehicles, they complain about the price of it. Ashok, auto rickshaw driver, said, “ I keep a small sanitizer in my rickshaw and also give it to people who ask for it. But with limited income, how can I afford all this. I have to pay fuel charges and also the sanitizers are costly. There are no passengers but even if there are they demand to use sanitizers” Auto drivers have almost lost hope and a few are also planning to switch professions. They urge the government to provide them with some aid or waive off the loans.
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