Tribune News Service
Jalandhar, June 3
Praveen Rai, a 31-year-old migrant, who purchased a new CNG-operated auto-rickshaw three months ago with the hope to double his income, is now finding it difficult to make ends meet.
After over two months without any earning, the ease in the lockdown restrictions has done little to help him get out of the financial distress. Other then feeding his family, he has to pay the monthly installment of Rs 7,000 for the auto-rickshaw he bought.
At around 5 pm, while on his way to refill gas in his vehicle at a gas station, located in Kartarpur, he said he managed to get only five passengers after working for seven hours.
“With only a few rides, we aren’t making any profit these days. Aap dekh sakte ho koi sawari nahi hai, subah se yehi haal hai (You can see that I’m going without any passenger, it’s happening since morning). I am making a profit of only Rs 100-250 these days. The major part of earning is spent on refilling gas only, which is Rs 68 per kg,” said Rai.
The two passengers and the driver rule for auto-rickshaws has apparently put their drivers at the receiving end. The compulsion to follow the social distancing norm and sanitise their vehicles to combat the virus had added to their financial woes, rued drivers.
Subsequently, unable to bear the cost of the fuel, the auto-rickshaw drivers have increased fares per kilometre, which is eventually making a big hole in pockets of residents. Now, the passengers are shelling out Rs 20 (earlier it was Rs 15) for a distance of 5 km and double or triple the amount for a distance of over 10 km.
However, some auto-rickshaw drivers also ferry over two passengers to earn more money.
Praveen said once he was ferrying four passengers but after being caught by the police, he was let-off afrer a warning. Ranjit Singh, president, Bhagat Singh Auto-rickshaw Union, said for violating two passengers and the driver rule, auto-rickshaw operators were issued fines of Rs 500 to Rs 5,000. After the relaxations in the lockdown. over 80 auto-rickshaw drivers had been challaned.
Gurvinder Singh, reader, traffic police, said on Monday and Tuesday seven erring auto-rickshaw drivers were issued fines. Notably, before the lockdown, the auto-rickshaw drivers used to earn Rs 1,000-1,500 a day.
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