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Taxi Drivers suffer as pandemic rages on

Cab services finds itself in limbo due to the virus and hasty regulations mid COVID pandemic

2022 Feb 01, 8:15,

 It's no surprise that since the very conception of the pandemic, the virus has destroyed business and livelihoods alike in almost every imaginable sector throughout the world. In Nepal, from tourism, business to sports and health every sector has been affected severely and one such sector finding itself on the struggling end is the Taxi service and cab businesses. Since the pandemic forced the government’s hand to, at a point, suspend all transport and issue a nationwide lockdown, cab drivers and companies alike have suffered, for the nature of their job is one that requires them to go about and interact and provide services to strangers (things that don’t sit well with COVID regulations).

“Business is hard to come by, we barely get 2-3 people on a daily basis which used to be 6-8 everyday. The COVID came and we were forced indoors, even after reopening and the variants have affected the numbers.” says Ram Bahadur Giri, an independent Taxi driver operating within the valley. “The money we make is barely enough to pay rent and eat food, it's hard to make ends meet, ride sharing services have already taken away most of our clients and now the virus has just added to the misery”, he adds.

Speaking of the meagre profit margins and regulations surrounding the Taxi business a rather melancholy Giri says, “the profit margin per kilometer is simply not enough, even when we do end up getting clients the money we get is too low! The government has proclaimed for ages now that they are going to raise profit margins and fares but it has never come to pass!” implores Giri. “It’s very unlikely, but if by a stroke of luck they do increase the profit margins it's still not enough. They’re discussing increasing the fare by Rs 7 per km making it Rs 60 km. We can’t run our livelihoods with that meager increase!” says Giri.

Independent drivers such as Giri, suffer not only from a general lack of people using Taxi services out of fear but also clients who prefer to use cab services and apps to book cabs. However, things remain grim on the Cab services too. “Taximandu used to fulfill 200-300 cab requests every day before COVID however after that we barely did 50-80 requests on a good day. Despite the fact that we’ve ensured that our driver’s and their vehicles meet safety regulations and sanitation guidelines with the use of masks, 2 person seating and sanitizers there still seems to be an understandable apprehension with Taxi riders to use Taxis,” says the managing Director of Taximandu Arjun KC.

“We want to keep our driver’s happy, hence we assure that they make a healthy and reasonable profit from each ride. Although we do still maintain government allotted fares, if the driver’s make a loss or too little a profit from their trips, we make sure that they’re duly compensated for the amount,” adds a proud KC.

Drivers working for cab services in comparison with their fellow independent drivers seem to have navigated the pandemic and its aftermath relatively better. With the companies providing raised fares and profit margins, one can see why the idea of joining up with such companies is appealing to more and more Taxi drivers now more than ever.

In conversation with one of the drivers from Taximandu- Gokarna Prasad, he mentions his job satisfaction and his take on the entire pandemic and business sector. “I’m thankful to Taximandu, it’s a great service and they’ve helped me out a lot, I make good money! Obviously after the pandemic things have slowed down, business has gone down a lot but the company looks after us.” says a grateful Prasad. “I can understand the woes of independent drivers, the thing about working independently is that there is a lot of inconsistencies in your clientele and it can get frustrating at times, more so in the pandemic time, the authorities aren’t helping; Taxis are mandatory services, we must be treated as such. Many times it serves as personal ambulances for people looking to immediately go to the hospital. If there ever is another smart lockdown, taxi’s must be given clearance to run!” affirms Prasad.


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