Vendors, auto drivers pin hopes on Metro reopening despite a lukewarm response on day one


    Scores of auto rickshaws, roadside vendors and cycle rickshaws lined up outside various Metro stations along the DMRC’s Yellow Line in Gurugram on Wednesday morning. However, with the Metro seeing extremely low ridership on day one of restarting operations, many said they were unable to boost their daily income by providing services to incoming commuters, as they had hoped.

    The Covid-induced lockdown had a severe impact on auto drivers and others plying public transport in the city. “The Metro station is where we find the bulk of our customers. We have really been looking forward to this, but doesn’t seem like our luck will change today,” said Sudhir, an auto driver from Bihar, who returned to the city last month and plies between Huda City Centre and Rajeev Chowk.

    After paying the daily rent and fuel costs for his vehicle, Sudhir said he is usually able to earn ₹400 per day, even at a time when companies are allowing work from home. “If the Metro crowd is even a fourth of what is was, I will earn at least ₹150 to ₹200 more. Let’s see if things change in the next few days. I’m confident there will be more commuters in a week’s time,” he said.

    News of the Metro reopening also encouraged a few tea sellers and food vendors to set up shop outside Iffcco Chowk and Huda City Centre Metro stations. Mange Ram, who sells kachoris from a rickety stand attached to the back of his bicycle, said, “I used to sell here every day before the lockdown. Now I sell at Subash Chowk. I decided to try my luck since the Metro was reopening. However, only one or two customers turned up. It’s disappointing.”

    In fact, the busy ecosystem of transporters and vendors that make for chaotic scenes outside most Metro stations was entirely absent. “It will be like this only for a while. Lots of people have gone back to their villages. There’s little money left in selling food on the street,” said Puran Singh, one of the few tea sellers still working in the area. “Office and Metro crowd were my main customers. I am doing this because it’s what I have been doing for the last five years. Everyone is hoping that the reopening of Metro will bring more business,” he said.

    Sharing autos, which typically accommodate as many as six people instead of the usual three, however, fared better, despite the inherent violation of social distancing norms. A driver, who was plying a sharing auto between Huda City Centre and Sector 38 since before the lockdown, when asked whether he thought it was safe to crowd as many as six commuters in a single vehicle, responded, “It is up to the customers, not me. I will take as many paying customers as will fit inside my auto. If I start doing single trips I will end up overusing my day’s fuel supply.”

    Cycle rickshaws, meanwhile, were only a few and saw the lowest number of takers, which rickshaw pullers said was due to the lack of short-distance travellers and also the unfavourable weather conditions, which prevailed over the city for most of Monday.


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