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Fuel burn: Bleak future for taxi drivers

They are yet to recover losses incurred last year

February 15, 2021 07:08 am | Updated 07:08 am IST

When taxi driver Kumar H.R. took a loan to purchase a vehicle, it was a first step towards building a secure future. The COVID-19 pandemic shattered those dreams, and he was forced to sell his vehicle as he did not have the financial resources to repay the loan. He returned to his native place in Hassan and remained there for six months while the COVID-19 virus took its toll on society. Two months ago, when the number of cases started to drop, he returned to Bengaluru and got a taxi by paying a daily rental. However, the increasing price of diesel is eating into his meagre profit.

Last year around this time, diesel was selling at ₹68 per litre, but on Sunday the price was ₹83.81, while the per litre price of petrol was almost ₹92.

“It is very difficult to explain what taxi drivers are going through. I returned to Bengaluru, but I am hardly getting any bookings. My daily earnings don’t cross ₹500 despite spending the whole day in traffic. The rising fuel price has made life worse for us. We hardly get ₹7 to ₹8 per kilometre from the aggregator. The rates fixed by the government are never implemented properly,” he alleged.

Taxi drivers say that a large chunk of their earning goes towards fuel and maintenance of the vehicle.

According to K. Somashekar, president of Namma Chalakara Trade Union, taxi drivers are yet to recover from the loss incurred during the lockdown, and business remains slow. “After the imposition of the lockdown, many drivers could not repay the loan and sold their vehicles. Only around 50% are running on the road, and they are not getting decent bookings,” he said. “The State government itself is struggling to maintain road transport corporations, and is not in a position to pay salaries. Just imagine the plight of taxi drivers.”

Unions are unhappy with the response from both the Centre and the State. “Governments have hardly done anything to come to the rescue of taxi drivers who are going through a lot of financial distress. The increasing fuel price is making the situation worse for them,” he added.

The applies not only to drivers who have attached their vehicles with aggregators. The consecutive rise in price of fuel has hit tourist and goods vehicle operators, too.

K Radhakrishna Holla, president of the Karnataka State Travel Operators’ Association, said, “The governments should stop relying heavily on taxes on fuel, and find other sources of revenue. We were given road tax exemption only for 58 days, and no other relaxation. We are now running only 50% of vehicles, as there are no bookings from companies due to work from home.”

According to Mr. Holla, they are in no position to charge customers more. “If we increase our rates, we end up losing bookings,” he said.

( This is the last of the three-part series on the impact of rising fuel prices )

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