Economy

Covid surge may prove a road block for the mobility sector

Sangeetha Chengappa Bengaluru | Updated on May 04, 2021

“The government should waive interest on vehicle loans and support us with essentials and medicines”

Workers in the segment want the government to extend a helping hand

Just as the Indian mobility sector including cabs, autos and bike taxis recovered to 69 per cent with 78 million rides in March compared with pre-Covid levels, the second wave of Covid has stalled the recovery.

Consequently, with States including Maharashtra, Karnataka, Delhi, Haryana, Telangana, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir in lockdown mode and others imposing night curfews and travel restrictions, the recovery of the mobility sector is likely to drop of 30-40 per cent in the next few months, says RedSeer Consulting.

“We are dependent on our vehicles for our livelihood and lead a hand to mouth existence as we depend on daily earnings The government should understand our plight and provide interest waivers for our vehicle loans, protect us from financier’s goons/recovery agents and provide us free groceries and medicines,” said Tanveer Pasha, former President of Ola and Uber Drivers Association.

Some of the vehicles of Ola and Uber drivers that BusinessLine spoke to have been repossessed as the owners defaulted on EMIs. While many of the drivers have returned to their villages, some have taken up job miscellaneous jobs.

“Last year after the national lockdown, we were given loan moratorium and e-pass facility for intercity and interstate travel, but nothing is forthcoming during this lockdown. Most corporates are working from home, therefore, we have no business from them either” said K Radhakrishna Holla, President of Karnataka State Travel Operators Association, which represents over 2.5 lakh taxis, tourist vehicles and corporate on-call service vehicles.

Bus transport

Even the bus segment, a primary mobility option for the common man which recovered sharply from November – December 2020 and exceeded pre-Covid levels in January/February is expected to be badly hit. Rohit Sharma, COO, Abhibus.com, an online e-ticketing platform that aggregates solutions to 3,000 private bus operators and State Road Transport Corporation said “till March 20th we were clocking 20,000 transactions a day, which is now down to 7,000 transactions. RTCs have reduced the volume of buses by 85 per cent and private bus operators have reduced volumes by 75 per cent.”

He said, as of mid-January 2021, 10-15 per cent of private bus operators had shut down operations. “I see this increasing to over 30-40 per cent per cent because this time the impact of the second Covid wave is much worse than last year.”

Prakash Sangam, CEO, redBus, the world’s largest online bus ticketing platform feels, there is a dire need for the Government to step in with a differential policy to support badly hit sectors like mobility. How can bus operators be expected to pay EMIs along with accrued interest, even for the period when they are not running buses?, he asked.

Published on May 03, 2021

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