Slow start for autos, many unsure of business with just 1 passenger allowed

Written by Abhinav Rajput
| New Delhi |

Published: May 28, 2020 5:32:14 am

Auto driver Vijay Sah placed a barrier between the driver and passenger seats using a polythene sheet. (Photo by Abhinav Rajput)

When Vijay Sah (40) parked his autorickshaw outside Akshardham Metro station, it was in the hope that he would get passengers through the day. The Pandav Nagar resident had come prepared — having placed a barrier between the driver and passenger seats using a polythene sheet. But there were hardly any customers.

Tying a string to the sheet to keep it in place, Sah said, “I took out the auto after two months. The last time it was on the road was before the Janta Curfew on March 22. It is good that the government has allowed us to ply; we had exhausted all our savings. Even I would have left for my village had it been extended. The landlord didn’t ask me for rent during the past two months, but for how long will he hold off? He is dependent on the rent too.”

Sah lives with his brother and came to Delhi seven years ago looking for work. His family lives in Bihar’s Champaran district.

Under the guidelines released by the Delhi government on Monday, autorickshaws, e-rickshaws and cycle rickshaws have been allowed to ply. They, however, can carry only one passenger at a time and will have to disinfect the passenger seat between rides.

There are close to 1 lakh registered autos in Delhi.

Most auto drivers that The Indian Express spoke to said they were thankful that they could ply again, but rued the guidelines that allow them to ferry only one passenger at a time. Business on Tuesday was slow for most.

Dharni Dhar Mandal (60) who lives in Okhla and has been driving an auto for two decades, said he would earn up to Rs 1,000 a day before the lockdown.

“I have earned around Rs 200 till now. At this rate it will be difficult to feed a family of six. My son is also an auto driver,” he said.

The Delhi government had last month announced that those driving public service vehicles will be given an assistance of Rs 5,000 each during the lockdown. Over the past month, the government has transferred Rs 5,000 each into accounts of over 1.1 lakh public service vehicle (PSV) badge holders, which includes auto drivers.

Several auto drivers also said the Delhi Metro being shut was impacting business. In Delhi, autos are essential for last-mile connectivity from Metro stations.

Dheerj Paswan, who lives in Rohini, said the government should extend more help as many auto drivers are unable to pay even the rent for their vehicles. “I have to pay Rs 250 per day to the owner as rent. I have got just two passengers so far today and managed to earn only Rs 200,” he said.

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