The BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has planned to conduct dedicated COVID-19 testing drives for the auto rickshaw and taxi drivers of Mumbai. The Break The Chain guidelines for the second wave has mandated auto rickshaw and taxi drivers to carry a negative test report with them. "One the lines of how we are conducting tests in public spaces, we want to launch drives for auto rickshaw and taxi drivers as well," said Suresh Kakani, additional municipal commissioner and in-charge of public health in BMC.
Next week, a joint meeting will be held with transport operators and union bodies. “The drivers are out on the field, so it’s better to test as many of them as possible within a given time," Kakani said. Senior officials also maintained that the drive will be carried out jointly with local ward offices. Those who test positive will be sent to a nearby civic facility or isolation centre for treatment.
Meanwhile, union members have said that they have not been informed about the drive so far. However, they maintained that, earlier, they had written to the chief minister and state transport minister and had urged them to start such drives for taxi and auto rickshaw drivers. "As per the new rules, we need to carry a negative report. However, getting a test done is a hassle for drivers. Testing at private centres costs a lot of money. In government facilities, it takes time for the report to get published," Thambi Kurien, general secretary of Mumbai Rickshawmen's Association told the Free Press Journal.
Al Quadros, general secretary of Mumbai Taximen's Association, said that considering the lockdown, it’s difficult to trace each and every taxi driver and get them tested.
"Due to the lockdown, more than half of the drivers have gone back to their village. So, unless they come back, the footfall for testing would be very less," Quadros said.