After three weeks of lockdown that kept autorickshaws off the road, relaxation of lockdown rules that allowed autorickshaws from Monday was yet to give any major relief for the livelihood for autorickshaws drivers in Madurai.
With buses still not plying and majority of shops and all temples and cinema theatres closed, the number of people seeking the services of autorickshaws for their movement is very less, said autorickshaws drivers.
“A majority of the people are yet to come out of their houses. And those who are coming out have their personal vehicles like bikes or cars,” said R.P. Chandrabose, State president of Share Autorickshaw Operators Association.
He said that less than 20% of the three-wheelers was plying on the roads.
“Passengers had engaged my vehicle only three times till now (Monday evening) and my earnings are not enough even to meet the autorickshaw rent, fuel and tea expenses,” said A. Subramanian (55).
Stating that fear of e-registration was also a cause for many autorickshaws drivers not coming out, many drivers chose to ply their vehicles only for shorter distance.
“After the peak hour traffic, police are insisting on e-registration. The police insist that even with e-registration, autorickshaws can ply only to and from hospitals,” K. Murugan, another autorickshaw driver said.
Autorickshaws will be on high demand only if there is more floating population. “With no buses running, people seeking autorickshaw services is very less. Only those going to hospitals engage us,” he added.
They had to spend over ₹ 50 to get e-registration. “Our men are thronging internet centres to get e-registration for their vehicles and get the printout pasted on their vehicles, whereas the e-registration is only for the customers,” Mr. Chandrabose said.
Mr. Subramanian said that he had already borrowed ₹ 10,000 to meet family expenditure during the lockdown. “Now, even the moneylenders are hesitating to give us any more money, as they know that we will not have our usual daily income,” he added.
Mr. Murugan said that only when lockdown is lifted, autorickshaw drivers can expect to make their livelihood.
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