B'luru: Drivers of school buses turn street vendors

Jobless for months, school bus, van drivers turn street vendors

Government did not include the drivers of school-run vehicles in the list of beneficiaries eligible for the relief

Left with no option, Satish, who drove children to school for 20 years, is now a fruit vendor. Credit: DH Photo/B H Shivakumar

School bus and van drivers are sinking into a deeper financial crisis as a government panel’s recommendation to use own vehicles to transport children seems to have ended hopes of reviving their services.

An estimated 40,000 mostly Tempo Travellers (TTs), minibuses, matadors and Omni vans that ferried children to schools ran out of business after the lockdown.

Some like Asif Khan, who drove children to Bishop Cotton School for more than 30 years, sold two TTs he bought with all his investment to support his family in the last one-and-a-half years.

“I rode an autorickshaw between 1988 and 2002 and saved every penny to buy my first TT,” he said. “(Now) I had to rent a friend’s auto to try and earn some money as school trips may never start.”

Read more: India’s unemployment rate slides in the first sign of economic recovery

Karnataka United School and Light Motor Vehicle Drivers’ Union said the state government did not include the drivers of school-run vehicles in the list of beneficiaries eligible for the government’s relief in both the first and second wave.

“The government has consistently looked away from us despite repeated pleas. We have met all the ministers and written to the chief minister to consider the plight of drivers and their families. There is no response,” said Shanmugam P S, president of the union.

Shanmugam revealed that most driver members have sold their vehicles and have taken up street vending and manual labour to support their families.

“Even if the government opens schools and allows us to operate buses, we have to invest at least Rs 60,000 to 80,000 on a vehicle for the fitness certificate, road tax and insurance payments, besides painting and servicing of the vehicles,” he said, urging the chief minister for tax waiver on the vehicles for the time period when they were not operating.

Satish M P, who drove children to St Joseph’s School for 20 years, said he is selling papayas for the past few months near a fuel outlet in Sadashivanagar. “I have two vehicles with pending installment payments amounting to Rs 2.5 lakh. It is a blessing that the financier has given me time to pay the money, otherwise, I would be in dire straits,” he said.

A Mandya native, Satish hoped that the problem would not hit his children’s education. “I have always managed to pay for my children’s education,” he said. “My son is completing his MBA and my daughter is doing engineering. I hope the schools will reopen soon.”

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