Drivers struggle to earn their daily bread
Since the government holiday commenced on March 26 in order to curb the spread of coronavirus, people with lower income have been suffering while trying to earn their livelihood.
Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) run autorickshaw drivers have been struggling to earn their living.
Owners, technicians and professionals related to the industry are struggling too, as they do not have anyone to help them in this time of need.
This sector has been facing losses worth Tk10 crore approximately per day in the capital, incurring in the last 14 days a loss of Tk140 crore, according to a draft estimate of Dhaka Metropolitan CNG Autorickshaw Owners’ Association.
Sufferings of drivers know no bounds
It is almost the seventh day (as of Tuesday) of the month and house owners will start asking for rent to be paid, said Md Kalu Miah, a CNG-run autorickshaw driver
Kalu Miah lives in Kamalpur near Cantonment area of Dhaka and has to pay Tk3,000 as house rent but has had no income for the last 12 days. He fears he has to take to the streets if the situation continues as he has to feed himself and his family.
Hailing from Kishoreganj, Kalu Miah told Dhaka Tribune: “Local public representatives are helping those who are local voters. We have no one to take care of us.”
Md Hasan, a private CNG autorickshaw driver, said that he was now paying Tk600 to the owner of the CNG on a half-day basis and was driving his vehicle by dodging the eyes of the police.
While talking to Dhaka Tribune, Barkat Ullah Bulu, president of Dhaka Metropolitan CNG Autorickshaw Owners’ Association, said: “The drivers pay the owners at least Tk1000 daily, while the government fixed it at Tk900.”
But some CNG auto-rickshaw drivers claimed that they had to cough upTk1200 for renting a vehicle.
Bulu also said the organisation was trying to help the drivers on a personal basis. He demanded government intervention in the matter.
He stated: “We [CNG autorickshaw owners] cannot help the drivers as neither the garage owners are compromising nor are we getting any allocation from the state authorities. The garage owners have to pay the rent for land they are using for the service.”
Bulu claimed that most of the drivers had returned to their village homes and only a few remained in Dhaka.
Rejecting the owner representative’s claim, Md Shakhaowat Hossain Dulal, general secretary of Dhaka district CNG-run Autorickshaw and Mishuk (human haulier) Workers’ Union, said: “Only 200 drivers went to their village homes. The rest were waiting here to get to work after the holiday ended.”
“Bus owners are helping the drivers and helpers during this closure, but we are very ill-fated,” he lamented.
“No one is thinking about us. We are suffering a lot and the government is yet to take any step for the welfare of motor vehicle workers while it is making allocations for the garments industry,” added Dulal.
CNG autorickshaws on the road
The government had imposed a travel ban to contain the Covid-19 pandemic and halted the movement of public transport in line with extending the general holiday till April 14.
According to the Road Transport Act 2018, CNG-run autorickshaws are included in public transport. Those who are driving CNG-run auto-rickshaws during this lockdown are hiding from the law enforcers.
According to Bulu, the green coloured CNG-run autorickshaws are categorized as public transport while the silver coloured ones are excluded from the ban as those are private.
However, most private vehicles of this kind are illegal as they are running through using forged documents.
Of the 30,000 CNG-run autorickshaws in the city, half are under legal ownership while the rest are running with duplicate papers, Bulu added.