Lockdown-hit cabbie turns vegetable seller

Matter of survival: Mattajunja Swamy selling vegetables in his cab on which he still has EMIs worth ₹30,000 pending, in the city on Wednesday.

Matter of survival: Mattajunja Swamy selling vegetables in his cab on which he still has EMIs worth ₹30,000 pending, in the city on Wednesday.   | Photo Credit: Nagara Gopal

Mattajunja Swamy has been working as a driver for almost all of his adult life. After cab aggregators entered the Indian market, he became one of the thousands working for one such company. His financial situation began to look up. For about four years, it was a smooth ride. But then, as the coronavirus pandemic struck leading to a lockdown, cabs went off the roads and his troubles began. Now, instead of picking up and dropping passengers, Mr Swamy sells vegetables to eke out a living.

“I have been working as a driver for the past 18 years. I am a beneficiary of a government scheme which gives subsidy to buy four-wheelers for cab service. Once I got a car, a Swift D’zire Tour, four years ago, I began to earn better. But after the lockdown was announced, I found myself struggling to pay house rent,” the 47-year-old, who lives in a settlement near Film Nagar, says.

Comfortable past

Before the lockdown, he used to earn between ₹30,000 and ₹40,000 a month, depending on the number of hours he worked. But with cabs going off the roads as a part of the lockdown restrictions, his income fell drastically, almost to a naught.

“I have a daughter who is an intermediate student. My son, who is 23 years old, also works as a driver. During the complete lockdown, we were struggling to pay the ₹4,700 house rent. I had to find work to run the house. So, I decided to sell vegetables,” he says.

Now, every morning, Mr Swamy drives the same car to the Gudimalkapur vegetable market around 5 a.m. He buys leafy greens, tomatoes and almost every vegetable in between, and returns home around 7.30 a.m. “After buying everything, I begin to arrange vegetables properly in the car and go to areas like Film Nagar.,Prashasan Nagar, Journalist Colony, Nandagiri Hills and Jubilee Hills to sell them. Usually people do not bargain. But five days ago, I was slapped by a resident who did not want me to stop the car at a particular spot,” he says.

While being a cabbie involved driving for long hours at a stretch, Mr Swamy says that the income was sufficient. The situation is not the same now. “I bought vegetables worth ₹4,000. I managed to sell worth ₹2,500. I am facing a loss if I don’t get everything cleared by night. I still have ₹30,000 in EMIs left on the car. It is important that I make these payments,” he says.

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Printable version | Sep 26, 2020 8:09:18 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/lockdown-hit-cabbie-turns-vegetable-seller/article32280217.ece

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