Three Million Auto drivers of Metropolitan Cities starving due to Lockdown
Harjinder Singh, INN/Chennai, @Infodeaofficial
“Due to the lockdown for the last 60+ days, there has been lack of food in my house. There has been no income at all, now among such a situation of the financial crisis, there stands my house rent, auto rent, children’s school fees and all to be paid.
My husband has died years ago and the responsibility of the entire family lies on me solely” says Sumati (an auto driver), who drives an auto in Chennai city.
After the death of her husband, Sumati has been driving an auto and is the only breadwinner of her whole family. She says that after the lockdown, it is going to be very difficult to survive for the next 3 months and more, with the assistance and food items provided by the State Government.
If such similar lockdown goes on for another month, their landlord will drive them out of the house. The auto that she drives is on rent, if she does not pay the rent, then the auto also will be snatched from her hands.
The lockdown has affected every section of society in one way or the other. Whether it is a migrant laborer or a house worker or a washerman, a tailor, a trader, a farmer, also an auto or taxi driver, everyone has been affected by this lockdown. Lockdown has being directly impacting everyone’s incomes.
The lockdown has also hit nearly three lakh, auto drivers, in Chennai. Ever since the lockdown started, they have not been able to get out of their houses and to raise their family, without earning it is the biggest problem for them.
Out of these three lakh auto drivers, there are 25 thousand who have registered themselves with the State Labor Department. Ten thousand of these people are yet to renew.
The State government has given ₹ 1000 as assistance for these auto drivers but the same amount has been given to those whose registration is correct. Most of them are those, who have not registered and are forced to die of hunger.
Shanti, who runs an auto in Chennai, now has to be forced to starve in this lockdown. She says that before, during the floods in 2015, such a situation had appeared in front of her but it was not so bad as this time. During then many NGOs helped by providing food, necessities, etc. But this lockdown has led to starvation for her and her family.
For the last 60 days, she has not been able to drive the auto, due to which the income is nothing. She explains that the earnings of auto drivers depend on their operations.
One day’s earnings make their 2-day expenses. But it has been 60 days now and there is no means of earning. She says that if this lockdown continues in this way, then they will be forced to come out on the streets.
Repay a loan, pay rent or run a family
Venkatesh another Auto-driver says, that he bought a new auto 4 months ago by taking a loan from the bank. Now when there is no income, how will he pay the bank installment?
The government has announced that the people will be given relief in paying the installments of the banks, but instead of relief here, the bank employees call and harass him every day that has to pay the installment, otherwise, the auto will be confiscated.
To pay the rent of the house or pay the installment of the auto, he does not understand what to do. His family is run on the mercies of political parties, who have provided food items and essentials on behalf of Local area leaders.
Lockdown is a threat to life
Auto driver Babu says that for the last two months, he is having a lot of difficulty in paying the house rent and children’s education. Due to the lockdown, they have to sit in the house, due to which there is no income.
His family is somehow being run by the kindness of his friends and relatives. Last month, he could manage through it , but this month he had to ask for some money from his parents in his own town, in order for him to survive through this crisis.
The Tamil Nadu Government has recently issued an order saying that auto and taxi services will be restored in other parts of the state besides Chennai.
Being in Chennai Red Zone, these services are not being started here yet. In such a situation, these auto drivers want the State Government to do something for them so that they and their families can survive through.