Ola, India’s biggest ride hailing service, wants the government to step in and bailout its drivers, who are among those section of gig workers who are expected to be heavily hit by the coronavirus outbreak. The subsequent 21 day lockdown, though required, has further brought down economic activity for these drivers to a grinding halt.
According to a Reuters report, Ola is seeking easy, short-term interest-free loans for its drivers, as well as a 6 month period of relaxation from paying certain taxes. The company ’employs’ thousands of drivers throughout the country, but does not consider them as on-pay, fixed employees. This means that the company is not accountable to provide them monthly salaries and other benefits that fixed employees enjoy, one such benefit being paid leaves. Therefore, the 21 day lockdown, along with the falling demand for travelling is putting massive pressure on these drivers who have no source of income these days; hence the bailout request by the company.
In a letter, Ola said,”Mobility as a public utility service is the worst hit during these stressed times. The driver partners associated with ride-hailing companies who are dependent on such services for their daily livelihoods are already experiencing a near-complete loss of income,” it added, justifying the claim for bailouts.
The company also reiterated that most of the 2 million drivers on the platform, have vehicle registered on loans, which they are finding difficult to repay in these hard times. Therefore, the company is also asking for a 12 month “holiday” on car loan repayments, to ease the current pressure on drivers, and also to set up a fund for those who have lost their daily income.
Ola has announced that it is doing its due part, and has waived the 5,200 rupees monthly fee it charges drivers who decide to lease a vehicle from the company itself, which boasts a fleet of tens of thousands of cars. The company also said that it is providing certain insurance and medical benefits to its drivers, including a cover of upto 14 days of their average earning, which drivers can get reimbursed upon submission of relevant documents. However, all of these measures are currently only limited to drivers who are either directly infected by coronavirus or their spouses are infected.
All eligible Ola driver-partners and their spouses shall be covered by a floater sum of Rs. 30,000 under which they can receive a compensation of INR 1000 per day for a maximum of 21 days for an individual from the date of a positive diagnosis for COVID- 19. This will include hospital and home quarantine prescribed by a qualified medical practitioner, as approved by the Government norms from time to time.
Similar measures were announced for the company’s Australia operations as well.