The Financial Express

Pandemic forces many to become ride-sharing bikers for a living

| Updated: July 14, 2020 18:21:09

Representational image —  FE Photo Representational image — FE Photo

He left the chalk and duster and held the handles of a motorbike.

As the coronavirus pandemic upended the entire world, the founder and teacher of a kindergarten in Dhaka's Rampura opted to become a ride-sharing biker to run his family.

His kindergarten has been closed since March 17 when the government decided to shut all educational institutions as part of its efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

"We waited for three months for the school to reopen. But it is not permitted yet and the coronavirus pandemic is worsening. We don't know if there'll be students in our school when it opens someday," said the middle-aged man, asking not to be named.

Under the circumstances, bdnews24.com reports, he has been driving a ride-sharing bike for the past 10 days, said the teacher who holds a master's degree.

Like the teacher, many people have taken up driving ride-sharing motorbikes for a living, as the coronavirus pandemic hit the economy. It damaged both formal and informal sectors, leaving everyone struggling to survive.

They were making a decent earning from the school and after paying the rent for school building and other expenses, he could run his own family pretty well. “I am struggling to pay my house rent now. We need money for daily food too.”

He has tiny savings which he does not want to spend thinking about any emergency arising in future, which is why he opted for driving ride-sharing bikes.

Public health experts are reiterating the need to maintain social distancing and wear masks in a bid to prevent the contagion of the coronavirus.

Having a passenger on the bike leaves the driver with no option to maintain a distance and there is no way to realise from the appearance of a passenger if they are infected.

“I'm not scared. Is there anything else to do? I’ll die in confinement and I’ll die when I come out. I came out as l want to live as long as I can,” said the teacher in his 40s when asked if he was afraid of carrying unknown passengers.

“Sometimes, I earn Tk 500 a day. I don’t make much as I’m unaware of the technique. Those who ride regularly somehow manage to get passengers,” he said.

Another young man who worked in a renowned sweet shop in Mirpur began to work as a bike rider.

The owner of the shop did not fire him but he left the job himself realising the trouble the owner was going through.

A graduate in food engineering and technology, the young man was waiting for passengers in the bustling area of Karwan Bazar. He brought his motorbike to Dhaka from his hometown of Noagaon when he visited there during the Eid.

“There’s a risk to carry passengers. We sit quite close to 5-7 passengers every day. But I’m left with no option.”

He is earning around Tk 600 a day with an occasional increase.

He went for an interview for the job of a salesman in a mobile phone showroom in Narayanganj and waited for the outcome. He will continue to drive the ride-sharing bike until he gets a job.

Mehedi Hasan has been driving ride-sharing bikes in Dhaka for the last one and a half years. He was seen on Gulshan Link Road asking people if they needed a ride.

“I used to be scared earlier but not now,” said Hasan when asked if he was afraid of carrying passengers during the coronavirus epidemic.

Hasan, 25, explained why he was not afraid of the virus which already claimed the lives of millions.

“Most of the passengers spray disinfectants when they get on the bike. Some of them drench the seat with spray. I keep a spray with me too.”

His earning from working with app-based ride-sharing service Pathao or Uber has slumped to Tk 500 from Tk 1,500 a day, said Mehedi. As the apps are not in service now, he fixes the fare mutually with the passengers.

“It becomes worse the day it rains. We get no passenger at all,” Mehedi said.

Some bikers were seen waiting for passengers near the Rampura Bridge in Hatirjheel. They were also negotiating the fare with passengers as the apps are not in service.

Faridur Rahman, who worked in a shoe store in North Badda earlier, bought a bike with the help from his family after his employer failed to pay him regularly.

“I earned better than my previous job when I started this ride-sharing work. But my income has dipped to the lowest after the coronavirus epidemic broke out.”

Sadekul, a fruit vendor, was negotiating the fare for a bike ride at Hatirjheel on Sunday. “Bike is the quickest transport to reach Farmgate from here and the fare is quite low,” he said when asked why he wanted to take a bike ride amid the virus crisis.

He felt it was safer to take a ride in a shared bike rather than travelling in a public bus during the coronavirus epidemic.

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