These drivers are just what the doctor ordered

Special services run by some cab operators in Chennai are proving to be a boon to COVID-hit families

There are some COVID-hit families that may consider a cab operator their saviour for that timely drop at the hospital. To address the difficulty in finding ambulances (due to demand) and other vehicles (due to the lockdown), some cab operators have pressed their fleet into the service of COVID-positive persons.

Driver Sabarish Kumar gets assigned one or two trips a day, each ranging between four and five hours.

“When I ferry a COVID-affected person, there is fear at the back of my mind. But we take all precautions. We are given a new PPE suit every day and do not allow a person to sit next to the driver’s seat,” says Sabarish, who works for Chennai Travels that has 30 vehicles on ‘COVID duty’.

At the end of the day, there is the satisfaction of having helped people in these times — that is how Sabarish views his work.

Recently, Sabarish ferried a lady on quarantine to the hospital where her husband was being treated for COVID-19. An emergency had cropped and she had no time to waste.

“The lady tried contacting many cab services and they refused to take the trip having learnt about her condition,” says Sabarish, adding that the lady thanked him profusely.

These vehicles are run without air-conditioning, and a thin layer of plastic serves as a partition between what is the makeshift “driver’s cabin” and “passengers’ cabin”.

Hire a cab

  • Mohan Travels — 9444128029
  • Sri Chamunda Travels – 79000 11000
  • Chennai Travels – 7550078781
  • Jay Travels – 9884444064

The driver dons a PPE suit and ensures the vehicle is sanitised before and after every trip. Some of these vehicles, operated round-the-clock, are hired to ferry essential items.

Of the 80 vehicles that Mohan Travels operates Chennai, 10 are on COVID duty.

“I will be adding five more vehicles to this fleet as there is a need,” says S. Mogan Raj, proprietor, Mohan Travels. He says it was only after some persuasion that they convinced some drivers to join duty.

“Six of the drivers have got their first dose of the vaccination which is a little reassurance,” says Mogan Raj.

Sri Chamunda Travels’ main business had to do with Tirupathi trips but as it is not possible now due to various restrictions, Rajesh S. Sharma hired 10 vehicles from his friend and is offering transportation for the COVID-hit. If their is an emergency call from the customer and drivers are not at hand, he sometimes dons the PPE suit and takes the driver’s seat.

“We charge ₹1500 for five-hour or 50 km and for outstation visits ₹16 is charged per kilometre,” says Sharma.

Jay Travels has 25 vehicles transporting COVID-19 patients. A representative of the agency says they offered similar service last year during the lockdown but in a small way. “We do 50 trips a day,” he says.

Last year, in June, Ola launched ‘Ola Emergency’ but it only catered to non-COVID related medical trips from home to hospital and vice versa.

This time, though they have not launched any special drive, drivers willing to follow all safety protocols are taking up rides but such drivers are few in number, point out some passengers.

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