As services of app-based cab aggregators Ola and Uber were crawling back to normalcy in Gurgaon on Wednesday, drivers who had been coerced into the strike were anxious about their financial stability after losing out a week’s earnings.
Sanjay Khatri of Rohtak usually drives over 200 kilometres everyday to earn and support his family. After working with several private cab companies that operate between Rohtak and New Delhi for five years, Khatri started driving for cab aggregator Uber four months ago.
Soon, the shift brought the family riches as Khatri was able to save over Rs 40,000 each month. Khatri bought a new hatchback, a Maruti Suzuki Ritz, for which he pays a monthly instalment of Rs 12,000.
Things were looking bright and the Khatri family had decided to send their eldest son to New Delhi for higher education.
But, the strike has put things in jeopardy, Khatri said. Protesters stopped his car on Sohna Road on Saturday and asked the passenger to leave the vehicle.
“The protestors asked the customer to leave and seized my smartphone. They then asked me to leave my cab and took away the keys. Without any caution, they broke the headlights and bumper and threatened to seize my vehicle if I didn’t stop plying,” Khatri said.
Four days of repair work cost Khatri Rs 15,000. In the last five days there has been no earning. Khatri does not want to return to work until the situation is “100% resolved”. But, he fears that he cannot delay it for much longer as he needs to earn money for his son’s admission fees.
Gagan Singh, who owns 11 cabs attached to Ola since 2015, is in a similar situation. His new business model was earning him a daily profit of more than Rs 15,000. But the strike and fear of damage to vehicles by protestors has eaten into his profits.
On Saturday, one of his cabs, a Maruti Suzuki Wagon R, was damaged by protesters and the vehicle has been sent to a workshop.
Despite the incident, Gagan still operates most of his cabs.
“The business is the bread earner for me and the 11 drivers who work with me. Since the strike, there has been a drop of 40% in collection. The fear of damage to my vehicles cannot be a deterrent as basic cash flow needs to be maintained for survival,” Gagan said.
Gagan said he has received assurances from Ola officials that the situation will improve by next week and hopes that it will curtail his losses.
“We are seeing more and more drivers getting back to work on the Ola platform over the last 48 hours. We are happy to be able to serve more and more customers as the supply situation has begun to improve. Seamless mobility for consumers and sustainable livelihoods for driver-entrepreneurs on the Ola platform are of utmost priority to us,” a statement by OLA released on Wednesday read .
Uber officials did comment on the matter.