BHOPAL: While every section of society has suffered due to the pandemic, some have suffered more than others. People associated with the education sector, like those ferrying students from schools, have been one of the worst sufferers with institutions being closed for over a year now.
With most educational institutions only offering online classes, students are not going to schools and colleges, rending the van operators jobless and under mounting debt.
There are nearly 2,000 van operators in Bhopal who are associated with schools. Nearly 700 of them were using vans purchased on loan and they were paying instalments.
Most of them have either sold their vans and have started running vegetable shops or are working as security guards or have returned to their native places after selling their vans.
Naresh, 41 who was running a van carrying students of Carmel Convent School, says he has sold one of his two vans to run his family. He says it has now been nearly fifteen months since most of the school campuses were closed. Now, we are running our families with help of our relatives. But, how long can we survive? It is also possible that even if the campuses reopen, students will avoid public transport.
Nitin Kumar Hete, 43, a resident of Saket Nagar says that he three vans for Saint Josephís Convent School students. One of the vans is on loan but the government has provided relief on the instalments he has to pay.
However, we will have to repay the loan from June this year with extra charges, he says.
Hete says that he is running a tiffin centre now to meet his familyís expenses as the price of all the commodities has shot up.
Shahrukh Khan, 40 a resident of Nariyalkheda says that he has 6 vans, and now, he is selling vegetables with his father. He says along with him, his father too would run vans for Bal Bhavan School students.
But, now they have sold two of their vans and four other vans are lying useless. Khan says they are now running their family selling vegetables.
Raees Sheikh, a van operator says the government should bring out a relief plan for the men who are into this business. He says there will be no relief for them in near future also as people will avoid public transport even if the process of unlocking starts.