Taxi drivers discussions
An auto driver in Delhi, armed with mask, face shield and sanitizer, gets ready to get back into his vehicle and provide transportation service in Delhi. (ANI photo)

Delhi, India – With limited to no income, the past several weeks of the national lockdown to check the spread of Covid-19 was nothing short of a metaphorical punch to the livelihood of around 95,000 auto drivers who criss-cross Delhi daily. Forced to keep their vehicles parked and with people restricted to their homes, earnings – at least through the primary job of driving – fell to zero. As such, Tuesday came with a massive reason to cheer as auto drivers once again took to the streets with the hope of finding passengers, one at a time of course.

Delhi government on Monday had eased restrictions with CM Arvind Kejriwal announcing that autorickshaws, e-rickshaws and cycle rickshaws would now be allowed to ply but with only one passenger at a time. And while many autorickshaw drivers wondered how they would refuse two people from the same family and urge them to take two separate autos, they said they were committed to adhering the the rules. “We were on the verge of starvation,” one auto driver told news agency ANI in the morning hours of Tuesday. “As such, the decision to allow one passenger in an auto and two in a cab will work to provide relief. My question to the government is if there are two people from a family, like husband and wife, then why would they take two autos?”

Taxi drivers had much to cheer about as well. Many across the city were seen cleaning the weeks-old dust off their vehicles as they got ready to hit the roads. There is some degree of concern that business may be significantly down from pre-lockdown days but the general consensus is something is better than nothing. “We welcome government’s decision to resume taxi services. Taxis can operate with only two passengers at a time in a car. Govt should bring an insurance policy for taxi drivers,” a driver said.

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Kejriwal, while announcing the relaxations, had said that the onus of sanitizing vehicles is on the driver for his safety as well as that of passengers. Even before his announcements, auto drivers across the city, in their plea for resumption of work, had said that they would follow all guidelines.

With train and plane movement remaining suspended and with movement between 7pm and 7 am continuing to be in effect, auto and taxi drivers agree that business from locals would be slow and none at all from tourists. Nonetheless, to be permitted to go about their daily routine would come as a big shot in the arm for them.

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