A section of bus & taxi owners and drivers will stop performing COVID19 duty from Wednesday in protest against non-release of dues for the past few months.
The drivers and owners of these vehicles were requisitioned by the state transport department for COVID19 duty after the outbreak of the virus especially for fetching stranded citizens from Guwahati, who returned to the state and other duties in the city.
The owners and drivers are part of the Meghalaya Travelers & Transporters Welfare Association (MTTWA).
MTTWA secretary Aldin Kharshandi told reporters that the government has not paid a single paise to around 150 tourist taxis and around 70 buses engaged in COVID19 duty in the past five months.
A delegation of the MTTWA, met deputy chief minister Prestone Tynsong on Tuesday airing their grievances and asked the state government to release the amount immediately.
Kharshandi said when the vehicles were requisitioned for COVID19 duty, no agreement was made regarding the fares to be paid and the drivers were not aware of the amount they are supposed to get per day.
The drivers said the government has not paid any amount to them except 30 litres of fuel for every 300 kms.
“We are risking our life doing COVID duty in the past few months and not receiving the payment put us in a difficult situation because we have to feed our families,” a driver said.
He said the owners and drivers of these vehicles would resume the COVID19 duty only after the government releases the dues.
When asked whether any assurance was made regarding the release of the dues, Kharshandi said there was no clear answer from the deputy chief minister in this regard.
However, Tynsong said assurance has been given to them that the state government would pay their dues soon.
“We are very sorry to know the grievances of the tourist taxi and bus owners and drivers doing COVID duty. We are taking up this matter and very soon all outstanding dues will be cleared by the government,” Tynsong assured.
In their memorandum submitted to Tynsong, the MTTWA alleged that while dropping passengers to Tura, the drivers were not provided with basic needs like food and water, especially during this pandemic where they need to keep their immunity strong.
It also alleged that there was lack of medical facilities besides proper check-up, and sanitization of the vehicles.
The drivers also said it was a risk for them doing COVID19 duty, if their immunity is not strong enough.
On wearing of PPE, especially in places with high temperature, one of the drivers said, “We feel suffocated wearing the PPE kits and the sweat comes out of our body continuously. That’s why our body should be strong enough and the government should think for us.”