Very few from green zone cities, taxis return empty

Very few from green zone cities to Bengaluru, taxis return empty

Cab drivers waited for nearly six to eight hours before returning empty. DH PHOTO/Krishnakumar P S

The trickle of passengers who landed at the Kempegowda International Airport from green zone cities were the only hope for over 8,500 taxis on Monday. Since a majority of arriving travellers were from the COVID-19 affected red zones, most taxis returned empty.

“Our drivers waited from 3 am to 4 pm to get their first trip,” said Hameed Akbar Ali, president, Karnataka Taxi Operators and Drivers Association. About 1,500 airport taxi drivers attached to the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC) are part of the association.

Most drivers had to wait for six to eight hours before returning empty. “Not many cities are under the green zones, and the few who come from there are not in sufficient numbers,” Ali said. The cancellation of 74 scheduled flights did not help either.

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Before the lockdown was announced and flights were cancelled, the drivers could eke out a living with two to three trips a day. “That was low, but we were able to manage. Over the next few days, we expect the passenger turnout to improve a bit so that we could get at least one trip a day.”

New problems crop up  

The poor turnout has introduced a new risky dimension. Ali explained: “Many drivers returning without passengers are picking up strangers to compensate for their losses in some way. But unlike the air passengers, who are thoroughly tested and screened at the airport premises, these people might be infected.”

Meanwhile, the 7 pm curfew has introduced another headache for the drivers. “Now, we have been assured by the KSTDC that the taxis could ply even during midnight.” But first, the drivers want the passenger numbers to rise substantially from the current trickle.

The state government has mandated that all asymptomatic passengers from red zone cities should undergo seven days of institutional quarantine and another week of home quarantine. They were shifted from KIA to the quarantine centres by buses and ambulances.

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