Telangana Gig and Platform Workers’ Union said that cab drivers and delivery agents who tested positive for coronavirus in the second wave haven’t received any help from the companies they work for.

A man driving a cabImage for representation
news Coronavirus Saturday, May 22, 2021 - 13:31

On April 17, 42-year-old Ramu, who worked as a cab driver for Ola and Uber, had to be admitted to a Hyderabad hospital after he tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Five days later, on April 22, he succumbed to the virus. He was the sole breadwinner for his family and is survived by his wife and two children.

Ashok, Ramu’s 22-year-old son is in his final year of graduation, and his younger sister is also pursuing her education. Speaking to TNM, he said no help has come from Ola or Uber so far. “When he was sick, my father received a call enquiring why he wasn’t driving. I informed them that he had tested positive. We were told that we will be helped but so far we have not received any help from the companies,” said Ashok.

It is nearly a month since his father passed away and the grieving family is left wondering how to make ends meet. “We have to find our way out of this. He was the sole breadwinner for the family. If left with no option I may have to start driving the cab like my father did. After all, I have to do something to fend for my family,” shared Ashok in a helpless voice.

Rudra Chakrapani’s story is also very similar. He too drove a cab and worked for both Ola and Uber. His family remembers him as a hardworking man who has always been healthy. He had to be admitted to a private hospital on 27 April and after two weeks of battling the virus he died on 15 May.

Speaking to TNM, Chakrapani’s daughter Monika, who is still trying to come to terms with her father’s demise, said, “My father was in hospital for around 20 days. We had to borrow from our family members and also pledge our jewellery to raise money. The total hospital bill was around Rs 6 lakh but we managed to pay only around Rs 2.9 lakh. We still have a big amount to pay and we’re looking for ways to find a way out.”   

Monika, who had recently joined an IT company, has a younger brother. She is now the only earning member of her family. “My father used to leave for work at around 6 in the morning and only returned by around 11 or 12 in the night. He left his studies when he was in 7th standard because his father passed away and ever since he has been fending for the family. He often told us how for every Rs 500 he earned, only Rs 250 was what he received”, shared Monika.

Like Ramu’s family, the Chakrapani family too says that they haven’t received any help from the companies he worked for. “My father’s friends conveyed to the companies that he is no more. They told me that they would be reaching out to me for helping us, but so far we haven’t received any help”, revealed Monika.

Ramu and Chakrapani are among many other drivers in Hyderabad who have lost their lives due to the pandemic. Their addresses may be different, but the story of loss and despair remains the same. Despite the risks of contracting COVID-19 while on duty, they continue to drive their cabs to support their families. According to the Telangana Gig and Platform Workers’ Union (TGPWU), 778 Ola and Uber drivers and 321 delivery agents who work for e-commerce and food delivery apps have tested positive for coronavirus in the second wave. Around nine people have lost their lives.

Speaking to TNM, Shaik Salauddin, Founder President of TGPWU said the drivers haven’t been receiving any help from the companies. “If you speak to some of the families of the drivers then you will be moved to tears. Many have tested positive and are unable to drive their cabs. Some have also lost their lives due to the pandemic. They have mounting debts. There are cases where the companies are threatening to take away their vehicles. Drivers are being tortured. When drivers don’t have rent to pay how will they pay the vehicle’s EMI?” asked Shaik Salauddin

Ever since the pandemic began, the drivers’ associations have been demanding that drivers who have COVID-19 be provided a compensation of Rs 1,175 per day during their recovery. They have also demanded that in the case of hospitalisation, the hospital expenses need to be covered and that PPE kits, sanitizers, disinfectants and screens should be provided to the drivers. A compensation of Rs 25 lakh for families of drivers who lose their life to COVID-19 is another long-standing demand that remains unfulfilled.

TNM reached out to both Ola and Uber for a comment regarding the allegations raised by the families of the drivers. Uber said it has a 14-day COVID assistance policy since the early days of the pandemic. As part of this policy, the company says it has been providing financial assistance for up to 14 days to drivers who are diagnosed with COVID-19, or have been asked to self-isolate by a public health authority. However, both families have told TNM that they have not received any financial assistance from the companies. Ola is yet to respond to TNM’s query, and this copy will be updated once we receive a response.

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