School transport operators, drivers in Pune see a difficult road ahead
Many vehicle owners are paying driver salary, yearly vehicle insurance and EMI despite earning zero income as schools remain closed due to coronavirus spread.Updated: May 22, 2020 18:21 IST
Pune: The Covid-19 (coronavirus) spread has left the owners and drivers of school transport — buses and autorickshaws — looking at a bleak future and struggle to make ends meet.
Schools in Maharashtra normally reopen on June 15 after the summer vacation, but the school bus and auto owners and drivers fear that the virus spread and continuous lockdowns will extend the school reopening date this year.
Baba Giram, a school bus operator from Padmawati, said, “I own four buses and have to pay equated monthly installments (EMIs) to banks as I took loans to purchase the vehicles. With no income, my EMI continues and I also pay half salary to drivers. So, it is really a tough time for survival.”
Giram compared the financial condition of school bus owners with farmers who end up committing suicide. “We hear farmers committing suicide because of severe financial crunch. I fear many vehicle owners would meet a similar fate if the present crisis continues.”
Many schools held online classes during March and April in view of the contagion. Some educational institutes like Deccan Education Society has decided to hold classes online for a few months in the next academic year.
Rashid Inamdar, another school bus operator, said, “We have to pay driver salary, yearly vehicle insurance and EMI despite earning zero income. There is uncertainty about the future as experts say that social distancing norms will leave buses and autos with less occupants and less income.”
Auto driver Tanaji Lavate said, “We don’t know when would schools reopen. When the classes begin, the government would not allow more kids on autos due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It will be difficult to survive as most operators have to pay vehicle loans.”
Ajit Abhyankar, an economist, said, “The government must help this sector and provide loan subsidy. The interest on their loans should be paid by the government for the next six months.”