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Ridesharing drivers feeling the pinch of blockades, hartals

Md Samiur Rahman Sazzad
01 Dec 2023 21:30:14 | Update: 01 Dec 2023 21:30:14
Ridesharing drivers feeling the pinch of blockades, hartals
— Shamsul Haque Ripon

Due to hartal, strike and blockade since September 28, incomes of ridesharing drivers have shrunk as ridesharing through apps has dropped significantly.

Over 200 vehicles, including buses and trucks, were torched while many people were injured and buses and private cars were vandalised during political unrest.

In this situation, fewer people are seen on the streets causing concern among ridesharing bikers. They claim that because of blockades, their incomes have gone down sharply.

Ridesharing drivers are now getting fewer calls than normal days. It has been seen that there are less private cars on the road because drivers get panicked if cars are set on fire. Those who want to call an Uber for ridesharing are unable to find them when they need.

Md Ariful Islam, a ridesharing biker who usually works in the evening in Mirpur area said, “If we exclude all expenses, our average income was Tk 700-Tk 800 on normal day.

“But now we can't go out at all due to blockades. Even though I go out in the evening, I can hardly earn Tk 200-Tk 400 which is not enough to maintain my family.”

Also bike ridesharing via apps saw a decline in usage as people began to embrace off-app rides.

Sometimes riders accept the car or bike rider’s request from customers, though most of the time, riders make a contractual ride, also colloquially known as 'khep.'

Hossain Ali, who drives a private car in the Banani area, said, “Sometimes they suspend app service for some unknown reasons. So, we couldn’t but offer customers a contract ride. Moreover, many people don’t know how to use the app. So, it is easier for them to contract instead of using apps.”

As the economic crisis continues, ordinary people's pockets are close to empty, struggling to make ends meet.

Md Mahbub Alam worked at a private company as an operation executive. He lost his job two months ago. He has a seven-member family with two children. So, he came to ride a sharing platform.

“After losing my job, I have to come to this occupation. But the current situation is worse and I only earn Tk 700 per day which is not enough for my daily expenses. The price of each item is going up day by day.”

“On the one hand, now the competition has increased, there are more riders than passengers. People don't have money, they prefer going by local bus with Tk 50 than spending Tk 200 by bike,” he added.

There are a total of 15 ride service companies in Bangladesh where 13 companies didn’t renew their licences. However, three ridesharing companies have applied to Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) for licence renewal. 

MH Totol, general secretary of App-based Transport Union, said that they are digital platform workers and this could be a gig economy in the country as the population is huge.

“Ridesharing is the third riskiest occupation in the world. We are ordinary working people, many of whom drive other people's cars on monthly contract to support their families,” he said.

“Owners have asked us not to take their vehicles out during the blockade. If someone gets out, the car is his responsibility.

“As a result, the way to generate income is almost closed and people like us who live from hand to mouth are sitting idle finding no job,” he added.

Many of them have taken loans to buy cars. As they are not being able to go out, they are struggling to pay the loan installments at the end of every month.

“The condition of those who bought a car with loan is even worse. Paying loan installments is also a problem. Though some people go out with risk, they do not find passengers on the road,” Totol said.