Taxi drivers

Taxi Drivers See No Road Ahead – The New Indian Express

Express press service

KOCHI: Until a few years ago, Ajith Aravindan’s life revolved around night shifts and daily trips to different destinations across the state. As a busy taxi driver at Kochi airport, he earned a decent living.

This was before the Covid pandemic curbed domestic and international air travel. Now the 37-year-old father of two cuts the grass for a daily wage and takes odd jobs to earn a living. “I always go to the airport. On some lucky days, I get trips. But they are few and far between. They are not enough to take care of a family of six. That’s why I started doing odd jobs,” he said.

Like Ajith, 600 members of the Cochin International Airport Taxi Operators Cooperative Society are struggling to survive due to the pandemic-induced financial crisis. While some international flights were functional after the first phase, the second wave of Covid ended any hope of immediate recovery. Currently, only charter flights arrive at the airport. Around 200 taxis operate at the airport, but only a lucky few make regular trips.

“We are solely dependent on airport passengers,” said Eldo Yohannan, a member of the company’s board of directors. “With almost no travel for days, most drivers opted to do other jobs to survive,” he said.
He said he was earning close to 50,000 a month before the pandemic. It’s dropped from nearly 10,000 to 15,000. Drivers wait hours, sometimes days, to get a ride from the airport now,” said Eldo, one of the company’s most senior members.

“Even before the pandemic, our revenue was impacted by online taxi aggregators who are willing to carry passengers at a discount,” Eldo said. “Even now we face fierce competition from them. Although we complained to CIAL officials, they have not taken any action so far,” he added. The company was established 21 years ago. Initially, CIAL granted permits to operate the taxi service to individuals, or their immediate family members, who donated land for the project.

The company administers and manages the taxi service. “At the time of the company’s establishment, nearly 250 drivers were licensed,” Eldo said.