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Lockdown proves a curse for working class; street vendors threaten stir


GUWAHATI, July 16 - Although the union government is reportedly taking extensive measures to ease the distress of the working class people amid the lockdown, such steps are yet to show good results in case of Assam.

�Around 22,000 drivers of commercial four-wheeler vehicles are now reeling under acute financial hardship. They have remained jobless for the last four months. Though some of them received some relief from the government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), that was not enough to ease the distress,� said Ismail Ali, president of the All Assam Cab Operators� Union.

He informed that a section of such drivers are now operating at the LGBI Airport and Guwahati Railway Station. But their daily income has come down substantially.

�Around 1,000 drivers are operating at LGBI Airport and around 200 at the Guwahati Railway Station. But business is very bad as it is not possible to get a passenger every day,� Ali stated.

According to him, the union recently moved the State Labour Commissioner seeking some financial assistance, but did not get any positive response.

�We are demanding Rs 7,000 per month as a financial assistance to every driver until the situation becomes normal. But we are yet to get any response from State government. For us, the lockdown is a curse. The State government has taken the decision to extend the lockdown after consultation with the citizens� committee comprising some retired government servants who never try to understand the plight of labourer class people,� Ali rued.

Meanwhile, Street Vendors� Association of Assam president Naren Rajbongshi said very soon they will come to the street if the State government does not take any measure to help the street vendors of Assam who have been facing extreme hardships amid the lockdown.

�For the last few days, I have been getting phone calls from street vendors from different parts of Assam. All of them have the same thing to say � �the situation is no longer tolerable for us�. If the government doesn�t take any remedial steps then street vendors of Assam will die of starvation,� Rajbongshi cautioned.

Significantly, the association had recently moved the Deputy Commissioner of Kamrup (Metro) with a charter of demands, but is yet to get any response. Rajbongshi also informed that the State government has seemingly not taken any step to help the street vendors of Assam under the PM Street Vendors� AtmaNirbhar Nidhi.

All Assam Motor Transport Association (AAMTA) secretary general Pradip Das said that a large number of bus drivers and handymen have now opted for other means of income after remaining jobless for around four months. Even some bus owners are planning to sell off their vehicles as it is not possible to run the business further in such a situation.

�Government did nothing for us. Till date we have been helping our employees by paying them lump sums of money. But now we too are facing financial hardships. Amid the lockdown, we met the State Transport Minister and intimated him about the entire situation. During the meeting, he gave a very positive response, but later he did not take any step,� Das said.

He asserted that in Assam it will take at least six months to revive the private transport sector. As such, the government should relax the taxes. Das also appealed to the Assam government to follow the New Delhi model to contain the pandemic.

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