Highlighting their daily struggle to make ends meet, autorickshaw drivers in Mumbai have appealed to the state government to provide them financial aid so they can repay their vehicle loans.
More than 80 per cent of auto rickshaw drivers purchase their vehicles by taking loans from banks, which they repay gradually with due course of time. Meanwhile, the lockdown has emerged as a curse in the lives as many of them are unable to earn enough money to repay their vehicle loan.
For Ram Prasad (65), his autorickshaw is the only asset he has in his name. For the past three decades, the three-wheeler is Prasad’s livelihood. Last year he had to replace his older vehicle with a new one as his previous autorickshaw had exceeded its age limit.
During lockdown, Prasad could not pay the EMIs on time and since then agents of the bank have been threatening him about confiscating his vehicle.
"Last day a few guys entered into my house claiming they were form bank and they literally threatened me that they will seize my autorickshaw" Prasad told FPJ.
Many drivers stated, they spend at least 20 per cent of their monthly earnings in servicing their vehicles.
"The agents of the bank think, now that unlocking has begun and our business has also become normal. But it is not the case. Unless local trains resume normal services, our earnings won't get back to normalcy," said Param Kamble (49), an autorickshaw driver.
"Our business has not become normal at all. Now most of the people travel in their personal vehicles and people use autorickshaws for travelling in short distance only," said Amin Parab (33), another driver.
Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led auto rickshaw outfit has written to CM Uddhav Thackeray and transport minister Anil Parab requesting them to ask the banks for relaxing the interest rate on the loans.
"We have not asked the banks to forgive the loan, we have only requested the state government to relax the interest rates" stated Haji Arafat Ali, leader of the union.
The union has called for a strike on January 11 to make sure their voices are heard. The union has also demanded the state government to hike the auto rickshaw fares by atleast Rs 3.
"We have called for a march on January 11, if the government is not willing to hear us we will hit the streets because we don't have any other option left right now" added Ali.