Road Safety and Transport Authority on March 28 issued new directives that will be followed by public service transport operators in order to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the country. The Prime Minister’s Office on March 27 issued the directives and ordered the RSTA to implement them immediately.
Under the new orders, commuter taxis that have been carrying four passengers, are now supposed to carry two commuters.
The measures have sparked fears among the taxi driver that they might not be able to meet the daily expenses and pay house rents, loans and other debts.
Galey Thinley, 30, a taxi driver said that it is a good initiative from the government to maintain social distancing; however it has affected them. They are struggling to earn a living as passenger numbers plummet.
“The new rule has been implemented so as a safety measures and it is a good move from the government but for us it is has affected us very badly. Firstly with the outbreak of the disease we got less passengers and now with this new rule it has made difficult further,” he said.
He said that he used to earn around Nu 1,000 to Nu 2,000 a day driving passengers across the thromde and picking up travelers from the bus station. But in recent weeks, he said his average hourly wage has dropped to just Nu 300 to Nu 500 a day.
Kezang, 39 a taxi driver who ply from Thimphu to Paro said that trip to a certain destination will be a waste if they load only two of the seats.
“We earn our livelihood on a daily basis that has come to difficult situation. A large number of taxi drivers and their families are in a precarious situation, we have loan to pay and house rent to give to the house owner,” he said, adding that there’s no other source of income and it will be hard to survive.
He said that he used to earn around Nu 3,000 to Nu 4,000 in a day and it has drastically decreased.
“Though the new rule is for everyone’s safety but we are running into loses. We don’t blame government for implementing this new rule but if government can allow three commuters it will be a great help for us,” he said.
Leki Wangmo, 33 a female cab driver in Thimphu said that the government has made a good decision and the measures are aimed at ensuring that they don’t close business as well as giving their passengers enough social distance.
However, she said that after fueling the car lump sum of money stays in hand which is not enough for purchasing household items.