We Care We Share
An initiative of UN Bhutan- resilience tools for COVID-19
Taxi services in the wake of COVID 19… the challenges of being a Thimphu taxi driver
Deki’s car does not start. She had met some of her friends for dinner in a restaurant near Olakha. After repeated key turns and cranks, she decides to take a taxi home and leave her car.
Sonam Wangchuk is a 34 year-old Taxi driver and wears a blue facemask. He asks Deki to scan the QR code pasted on the back of the front seat. Deki does not have a face mask and Sonam offers her a new face mask from his glove compartment.
Sonam has been a taxi driver for more than two years. An RTC graduate, his car has many new accessories starting this year. The large QR code for the Druk Trace app never goes unnoticed. He maintains a small logbook too, for those without a phone. Sonam keeps extra masks for his customers without masks.
“We would have been very busy at this time of the year, had it not been for the virus,” says Sonam.
Providing taxi services in this pandemic has many challenges. From rules and restrictions on less number of passengers, to 7 PM and 9 PM curfews for the shops and the public, taxi drivers saw a huge drop in customers and as a result, their income too.
“Of course, there are fewer passengers now, and it has affected our business, but I would not refer to these as rules. It is for our own safety at the end of the day. As taxi drivers, we get at least 30-40 passengers a day, and in case of local transmission, we would be the first to catch it. At this point, our health and containing the spread of the virus matters more than the income,” adds Sonam.
Sonam recollects the time when the close of business was 7 PM and only two passengers were allowed in one taxi. He recalls reaching home by 6:30 PM. His vehicle had never been emptier, but he felt safe. With all the health advisories and preventive measures in place, he feels a sense of responsibility and pride in doing his share however small.
From her window, Deki notices a group of Desuups in bright orange as the taxi crosses the bridge near Taba.
“Although it has had an impact on our rent and food expenses and does get a bit difficult at times to make ends meet, we must not think of profiting at such a time. Our country is doing everything to protect us and keep us safe, we must be content and support all the measures taken by the Government,” says Sonam. He stops the car near Dechencholing School.
Deki pays the taxi driver and gets out of the car. Sonam heads straight back home.
The following morning at 3 AM, Sonam wakes up and hears the news of a nationwide lock-down. His brother who is a Desuup, leaves the house before daybreak.
Meanwhile, Deki is awakened by the sound of her phone ringing. Her friend informs her of the country going into lock-down. Deki immediately remembers her abandoned car and wonders how she will get it back.
For more stories, please visit http://www.unct.org.bt/covid-learning-resources/
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