Published: 20th April 2020
What COVID did to my Uber career: This Kolkata cabbie has had no income for a month. Here's what scares him the most
In this series during the lockdown, we look at how the life and times of an Uber driver has been impacted by the extended closure in business caused by the COVID-19 pandemic
Uber, on April 9, announced Rs 25 crore in grants for its driver-partners in India to help them survive the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. But these funds are yet to reach the drivers. Cabs are not plying in most cities and wherever there are cabs available, it is only for emergency services. Abhijit Koley is one such driver who has not had any income for the past month. Based out of Kolkata, Abhijit had always dreamt of having his own car and finally, in January 2020, he bought a car. "But there was some paperwork that was pending. I needed clearance to use this car for Uber. But by the time I could get the clearance, the pandemic hit and everything was shut down," said Abhijit, a father of two school-going children who has been working as a driver for Uber for the past six years. "But now, they are allowing only a few cars to ply and that too the terms have changed. We are now allotted rental trips here and get paid Rs 1,500 for 10 hours, which is a good deal but the owners are often not ready to give us the trips, they would rather drive it themselves," said Abhijit.
Uber India and South Asia president Pradeep Parameswaran announced that thousands of driver-partners have started receiving grants under 'Uber Care Driver Fund' (created in partnership with GiveIndia and Samhita) by direct transfer into their accounts to look after their urgent and essential family needs. But Abhijit has not received any such benefits yet. The state government and NGOs have time and again proclaimed that they are helping the marginalised and those in need with essentials but Abhijit feels that on the ground level, it is about who can make it a bigger show. "It is not about giving us relief anymore. It is about which leader can make a bigger show out of it. I do not want to be a part of this charade. I would rather go to the early morning market to get the groceries I can still afford," said the 28-year-old.
While he is dependent on his savings now, Abhijit is worried about the future. "I am the sole breadwinner of my family. If the situation does not improve, I don't know what to do after my savings run out. I am also scared of contracting the virus, so I am not stepping out unless it is necessary. I do not want to bring the virus home to my kids," he said and added, "I am desperately searching for a job. I have reached out to everyone I know in search of a job but nothing positive has come my way yet, as all the offices are closed and people do not need drivers now."