Metro to remain shut, BMTC awaits government nod

Transport sector: Cab and autorickshaw drivers say the lockdown has greatly affected their livelihood; BMTC’s current operations of essential services to continue.

Transport sector: Cab and autorickshaw drivers say the lockdown has greatly affected their livelihood; BMTC’s current operations of essential services to continue.  

Autorickshaw and cab drivers want resumption of services

The Ministry of Home Affairs’ (MHA) guidelines for the extension of the lockdown till May 31 offers some relaxations to the transport sector, but Namma Metro, like other metro rail services in the country, will remain shut.

A decision on Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) buses, the lifeline of the city’s mass transport system, is likely on Monday.

C. Shika, MD, BMTC, told The Hindu that a decision on operations will be taken only after further orders from the State government. “The State government has called for a meeting on Monday. Based on its direction, we will take necessary steps,” she said, adding that BMTC’s current operations of essential services will continue.

With MHA guidelines not prohibiting cabs and autorickshaw services, the unions have demanded that the State government allow them to resume services immediately.

Out of work for nearly two months and desperate to get back, autorickshaw and cab drivers are refusing to take a no for an answer. “We are essentially daily wage workers and have been forced to sit at home for the past 60 days. We demand that the State government allow us to resume services,” said Tanveer Pasha, president, Ola, Uber Drivers and Owners’ Association.

In fact, even before the MHA guidelines came, Adarsha Auto and Taxi Drivers’ Union, that has over 15,000 drivers attached to it, had given a direct call to its members to resume services with safety precautions, even if the government continued with a ban. “We have no other option but to resume our services. Now that MHA guidelines allows services to resume and the State government has sought more time, we will wait till May 19. But we will be forced to resume services after that,” said M. Manjunath, president of the union.

Most autorickshaw and taxi drivers have loans with private finance firms, which have offered no respite from EMIs. Some have even threatened to their seize vehicles. “With no income for two months, sustaining the family has become difficult,” Mr. Manjunath stressed.

Though Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa announced a relief of ₹5,000 Direct Cash Transfer (DCT) to 7.75 lakh drivers in the State, the process hasn’t begun yet. Moreover, the notification by the Transport Department listing out eligibility criteria for the relief eliminates more people than serving them, unions rue.

There are nearly 1.75 lakh cab drivers and 1.5 lakh autorickshaw drivers in the city.

The unions have held a meeting and come up with various guidelines for their members to ensure safety - chief among these a transparent sheet separating the driver from passengers, making masks and sanitizers mandatory. “We are waiting for the government’s guidelines on the number of passengers in autorickshaws and cabs. As the government guidelines have allowed two persons apart from the driver in private cars, the same could apply to cabs. For autorickshaws, we are ready for either one or two passengers,” said Mr. Manjunath.

Travel operators seek tax exemption

Karnataka State Travel Operator’s Association will meet the Transport Commissioner to submit a memorandum seeking a tax waiver for six months and 50% tax exemption for six more months. Nataraj Sharma, General Secretary of the association, said that the waiver they have asked for was minimum and was inevitable for their survival.

Hotel industry awaiting clarity on reopening

The hotel industry, which was hoping for a reprieve, is still awaiting clarity from the State Government. According to the order issued by the MHA, hotels and restaurants may continue to operate their kitchens for take away service alone.

Bangalore Hoteliers’ Association president P.C. Rao told The Hindu that a week ago, representatives of the association urged Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa to allow hotels and restaurants in the city to operate. “The State government is yet to issue its restrictions and relaxations. We hope the government comes to the rescue of the hotel industry that has been worst hit by the lockdown,” he said.

He claimed that before the lockdown, the turnover for the over 3,500 hotels and restaurants in the city was nearly ₹25 crore a day. “After the lockdown was imposed, we are losing this revenue every day,” he said, adding that revenue from take away/parcel services was negligible.

Mr. Rao also said neither the Centre nor the State government had announced any relief for the hospitality sector. “The sector provides employment and is a big consumer of farm products,” he added.

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Printable version | May 30, 2020 8:07:32 AM |

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