How the men behind wheels lost track in the pandemic

By Zafar Abbas
New Delhi, Jan 10 (IANS) Mahtab sinks into a chair with his 2-year-old child as the TV news channels play the news of the Covid vaccination dry run. He watches the news closely but soon gets uneasy and switches the channel.

Sitting in his small accommodation in Delhi’s Jamia Nagar’s Okhla Vihar, he still recalls his beloved Omni van that stood outside his house and was his only source of livelihood. On good sunny days he ferried school children from a school in Batla House to their houses in the vicinity in Jamia Nagar. He survived the pandemic but his van couldn’t. His eyes go moist when he talks about the sad tale of his van’s farewell.

“We almost had nothing to eat and had to borrow money from friends and relatives during the lockdown. The schools got shut and I was left with no business. No schools meant no driver’s requirement. To pay the debts I had to sell my van after the lockdown was over,” said Mahtab, who is now looking for a driver’s job in Delhi-NCR.

Thirty five-year-old Kalyan picks up the call and in a polite tone says ‘Hello’. ‘Polite, neat, honest’ are the adjectives used by an acquaintance to describe him in a job request. Kalyan is well trained to drive luxury vehicles including Mercedes and Audi but lost his job due to the corona crisis.

“My employer in Fathehpur Beri paid me half the salary during the lockdown. However, things did not improve and I was politely asked to look for some other job. It has been one and a half months since then and I am still struggling to find a job for myself. I have three children and my family needs monetary support. In a nutshell I need a respectable job” Kalyan says in a low voice.

The schools slowly and quietly shifted to online education, the offices in Delhi-NCR are either running with minimum physical presence or have asked their employees to work from home. Several companies in Noida and Gurugram have supplied the computer set up or laptops to their employees until the pandemic scare recedes and things normalize. This means the cabs used in the transportation of the employees bore the brunt of the pandemic and many cab drivers were left jobless.

A random look at social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook also portray a dismal state of the drivers who lost their jobs during the pandemic and its repercussions. However, many people were seen posting brief bio datas of their known persons who lost jobs as drivers in the pandemic.

“If someone needs a good driver in Delhi with 20+ years’ experience can tell me here. I know someone who has lost his job due to this ongoing lockdown and pandemic. He is very sincere, punctual and honest. Please RT this so that we all can help someone needy,” Rohini posted on Twitter in September, 2020.

“Anyone looking for a driver in Delhi please let me know. A good safe and trustworthy driver known to me for more than 10 years has lost his job due to Covid and is looking for a new job. Till he gets a full-time job he is available for short duration duties for our trips,” said Sudhanshu on Twitter.

Seeing no solution in sight even the children and kin of the drivers started making accounts on social media to have a wider reach for probable job prospects for their father or relatives who lost jobs as drivers and are struggling to make ends meet.

The drivers who have spent so much time safely transporting people from one place to another are themselves struggling to find a track now. Not just the society but the government does need to make some necessary arrangements so that the livelihood of the ‘Drivers’ is restored and they find a little reason to heave a sigh of relief on the steering.

(Zafar Abbas can be reached at zafar.a@ians.in)

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