• Friday, Jul 10, 2020
  • Last Update : 06:29 pm

Lives of ridesharing drivers turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic

  • Published at 04:09 pm May 5th, 2020
Ride sharing
Photo: Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

Riders who took loans have to repay the banks even if they are devoid of their income right now

There are thousands of people in the country who are entirely dependent on ridesharing services for their livelihood. All of their lives have been disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic as they are being forced to stay home due to the lockdown enforced to curb the spread of the deadly disease.

The government has suspended the movement of all public transport as well as the app based ridesharing services like Uber and Pathao since March 26.

The officials concerned are not sure when the ridesharing services may be allowed to resume operation as the government has extended the general holidays multiple times since the pandemic started and it was extended again till May 16.

In this unprecedented situation, the riders are facing a huge crisis.

Many are spending their days miserably with their families as ridesharing is their only source of income. 

Some of them bought their cars by taking bank loans with the sole purpose of providing rideshare services. They are now forced to somehow scrape together the monthly interest money despite not having any income.

Raju Ahmed, 23, is a registered rider for one of the ridesharing services. He is a third year student at the Social Work Department of Dhamrai Government College in Dhaka.

He told Dhaka Tribune: “I have been ridesharing for the last two years alongside my studies. I rented a car and drove it for the first six months and then bought a motorcycle by taking a loan from a private bank.

“I used to earn around Tk50,000-Tk55,000 every month by sharing rides from eight in the morning till six in the evening every day. I was paying Tk10,000 to the bank every month as instalment from my income,” added Raju.

Like many rideshare drivers, Raju is the sole earner of the family. 

He supported his parents and two younger brothers living in his village house with the money he earned from ridesharing.

“I am now without any work and my savings are almost all gone. I am living a woeful life right now. I am depressed thinking about the instalment payment of the bike and other things,” he commented.

Pathao, the largest ridesharing organization of the country, started its journey in December 2016, and has almost 300,000 registered riders working with them.

Meanwhile, the United States based organization Uber started their service in this country in the November of 2016.

Obhai, another app based ridesharing service, has around 85 thousand registered riders, according to Syed Fakhruddin Millat, the organization’s manager (corporate and regulatory affairs). 

There are around 20-25 more app based ridesharing services in Bangladesh, according to various sources.

Of the countless riders registered with Pathao and other organizations, the majority are solely dependent on this profession for providing for themselves and their families.

According to insider sources, a large portion of the people who share rides on their motorcycles are from the villages. Some students work part-time, too. Most of these people have returned to their homes in villages after the general holidays and public transport suspension were declared.

Most of them are in a dire situation right now as they have people depending on them for financial support.

Several Uber and Pathao riders said that they are getting a few trips but only from acquaintances.

Expressing fear, some of them said they will go unfed if the situation remains the same.

Riders have to pay a commission for using apps from organizations like Uber and Pathao.

The riders have urged these organizations not to take the commissions for at least one month when the lockdown is lifted and rideshare services are allowed to resume.

The frustrated riders are anxiously awaiting the end of the coronavirus epidemic.

Pathao Head of Marketing Syeda Nabila Mahbub told Dhaka Tribune: “Our business has been heavily affected by the coronavirus pandemic and the riders are also facing losses.”

However, Pathao is trying to keep their other services open even if ridesharing is suspended.

“We are trying our utmost so that the hundreds and thousands of riders as well as the organization staff are not unemployed. Everyone should be helpful to each other in this epidemic,” Nabila remarked.

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