Even though over 24,000 people lost their jobs after school buses went off the road ever since the lockdown was imposed in the city, some drivers did not lose hope and helped tackle the pandemic in their own way. Many turned Covid ambulance drivers. In order to appreciate their service, the governor of Maharashtra will be honoring these drivers on July 6.
Around April-May, last year, nearly 200-odd school bus drivers started driving ambulances and ferrying COVID-19 patients to hospitals. This was done as the transport department was not only facing a shortage of ambulances, but also had a lack of drivers.
The School Bus Association claims that despite these drivers working throughout the pandemic, the government did not appreciate their efforts. “We approached the governor as our drivers are also COVID-19 warriors who weren’t recognized until now. On July 6, around 50 drivers will be felicitated by the governor,” said Anil Garg, president of the association.
The members of the association said that at least 200 drivers were roped in to drive Covid ambulances. “They not only ferried patients, but also ferried those who lost their lives to the virus,” said another member of the association.
These drivers were paid almost double their salaries that ranged between Rs 16,000 to 20,000 per month. Even now, there are 60-odd drivers who are still driving these ambulances.
Currently, the schools are operating online and school buses are not operational. The School Bus Owners Association had written a letter to the chief minister, seeking respite as schools have been shut. It stated that each school bus consumes 20 litres of fuel per day. The consumption of fuel in 200 working days is 4,000, for which the state government receives tax of Rs 38.55 per litre. There are 67,121 school buses, which include 21,436 owned by schools and the remaining are privately owned. The state government, according to SBOA, receives tax amounting to Rs 1,035 crore from school buses in a year.