With metro train and city bus services still suspended, there have not been many customers since Tuesday morning, say auto-rickshaw drivers.

There were not many takers for auto drivers along the metro route to Miyapur
Coronavirus Transport Tuesday, May 19, 2020 - 20:33

The ‘two plus one’ rule (two passengers and driver) for three-wheelers, as part of relaxing the lockdown restrictions in Telangana, has done little to ease the financial distress, say the auto-rickshaw drivers in Hyderabad. Many say the move is impractical as they have had to let go of customers in times of financial distress.

"What if a mother wants to travel with her two children? Should I accept only the mother and one child and ask her to leave her second child? Or should I accept the two children and leave the mother?" asks MA Wahid, an auto driver parked near ESIC metro station in Hyderabad, displeased with the lack of thought given into framing the rule that only two passengers and a driver are allowed in autorickshaws and taxis.

With metro train and city bus services still suspended, there have not been many customers since Tuesday morning, even though shops, businesses, private companies, government departments and factories are allowed to operate. For Wahid and other auto drivers, the auto stand next to the metro station used to be a lucrative spot.

“I got one customer to ESIC hospital; that is the only customer I got today. Maybe it will take a few days for people to step out their homes,” says Mohammad Jameel, another auto driver from the same auto stand as Wahid, who also had just a single customer until noon.

“Both our customers were to hospitals. Who knows for what ailment they were going to the hospital. I fear for my safety, and I am not shy to admit it because I have mouths to feed,” says Wahid who is 59 years old, surviving on government-provided rations since the lockdown.

“We can’t hike the rates for the trips either. A lot of people have lost their jobs and or are facing pay cuts. So raising the fares will be inhuman during such a crisis,” he added.

The usual frenzy of share-autos — which used to flout passenger limits of five set by the Road Transport Authority — plying along ESIC to Miyapur was scant in service.

“Just taking two passengers is just not feasible. I spend Rs 60 for a litre of diesel to run between KPHB Housing Colony and ESIC hospital (about 2.5 kms). If I take just Rs 20 per person, it still does not cover the fuel costs,” says Srinivas, a share auto driver, who finds running short trips, with just two passengers, a strategy that can incur losses. “If I make it Rs 30 per person, I still do not make any profit. Not everyone is ready to pay Rs 40 and wait for another person to agree for that amount. If I take three passengers, then I am in trouble with the traffic police,” he adds.

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