Puri: Binod Kumar Sahu, an auto-rickshaw driver would have never thought that the second wave of Covid-19 would render him penniless. After restrictions imposed during the first wave were lifted, the pilgrim city had once more come alive. The doors of Jagannath Temple had been thrown open as devotees and tourists started flocking the town once more. As they came, Binod’s income also swelled bringing back the smile on his face.
Little did he know what lay in store for him. As his income was just picking up, the second wave of the pandemic hit hard, forcing the Odisha government to impose lockdown and weekend shutdowns again. Binod now is under severe mental stress as he has no idea how he would meet the daily expenses for his family.
Binod is not an isolated case. There are hundreds of auto-rickshaw drivers and owners who are facing the same predicament. A large number of people in this town depend on visitors and tourists to earn their livelihood. With restrictions in place, the source of income has evaporated.
Auto-rickshaw drivers and owners are among those who are the worst hit. The second wave has left them struggling to make ends meet. There are more than 1,000 auto-rickshaw drivers and owners in this city. They are now struggling to eke out a living.
Quite a few of them have to pay monthly installments for the loans they have taken to buy the vehicles. They are running from pillar to post to find some relief.
A common sight now in front of the Puri railway station and bus stand is auto-rickshaws and their drivers sitting idle. They have no one to cater to as tourists have stopped coming due to the restrictions. Many vehicles have also developed technical snags as they are lying unused for lengthy periods.
The auto-rickshaw drivers’ union and the owners’ association have appealed to the Odisha government for some form of relief. They feel that only the government can help them in these troubled times.