Gig workers have raised an alarm in Hyderabad after the reported death of five drivers due to SARS-CoV2 over the past few days. “Md Mustafa Hussain died on April 26 at TIMS, Gachibowli he was aged about 48 he leaves behind wife and four girls. Who will now take care of the family that lives in Amberpet,” asks Shaik Salauddin of Telangana Gig and Platform Workers Union.
The Telegram groups that most drivers and gig workers use for communication are abuzz with reports of drivers and delivery executives testing positive for the Covid-19. Till May 4, five cab drivers succumbed to the disease while 549 drivers have tested positive and 311 delivery executives have tested positive.
Caught between zero earnings, backlog of Equated Monthly Instalment payments for vehicles and serious illness, the families of app-based cab drivers are staring at economic ruin and social distress. “Today is the 10th day my husband is in ICU at a private hospital. I have already paid ₹ 3.5 lakhs at two hospitals by borrowing money. I don’t know where to turn,” says B. Saroja, whose husband who drives a cab for both Uber and Ola, is on a ventilator at medicare facility near Kukatpally. “My family is taking care of our 9 and 11 year old girls,” says Saroja tearing up with helplessness.
One Uber partner even shared his plight on Twitter by tagging Uber boss Dara Khosrowshah.
“@dkhos I am Uber driver partner name Gaurav from New Delhi, India. Sir, I am suffering from Covid. I tested positive on April 22. As Uber policy says there is financial help for drivers for 14 days if found Covid positive. I mail, tweet, message and call but no response from Uber team (sic),”
In April 2020, Uber had announced a policy change to help drivers during the Covid-19 pandemic. “We’ve waived lease rentals, facilitated EMI relief, and offered driver partners access to online medical services, such as DocsApp, at no charge. Additionally, will be rolling out a Hospital Cash Insurance policy to benefit driver partners, and cover COVID-19 and other illnesses that need hospitalisation, for up to 14 days,” said a release by Uber India in April 2020. But on the ground, the drivers are being left to fend for themselves.
The drivers’ union is demanding a fixed daily compensation of ₹ 1,175 to those who contract the disease. Pay the driver’s hospital expenses if they are hospitalised due to Covid-19 complications. Provide PPE kits to all drivers, including sanitisers, disinfectants and screens between the driver and passenger in the vehicle as developed for vehicles.