With 40 individuals testing positive for coronavirus and the Covid-19 disease, many companies in India have allowed their employees to either work remotely from their homes or even go on paid leaves. But that’s not the case with driver-partners of cab aggregator Ola and Uber.
“Even after knowing that coronavirus has spread to Delhi, I still have to travel at least 250 Km to complete daily targets,” a driver-partner of Ola, on condition of anonymity, told Inc42.
Similar to him, millions of other Ola and Uber driver-partners have continued to ferry passengers even in cities where individuals have already been impacted because of the deadly virus.
While corporate employees are getting work from home, these driver-partners don’t have this option available as they have to venture out in public to earn a living. This surely raises a question on the corporate responsibility of Ola and Uber towards their driver-partners, which, in this case, seems to be lacking altogether.
Moreover, it is worth noting that these driver-partners meet new people, with every passenger the chance of catching or spreading infection increases. Some of them also carry foreign passengers to and from airports and with the coronavirus infection pretty much global now, it’s a scary situation.
In Brazil, for example, 240 Uber users were suspended after authorities found two drivers were suspected to be exposed to the virus. Now, one can imagine the situation if more than just two drivers in more than one city is infected. So the big question is whether Ola and Uber are doing anything to curb the spread of the deadly virus which already has killed over 3000 people around the world?
It also raises the question of whether Ola and Uber are really concerned about the safety of their driver-partners and customers in India, which is the biggest market for Ola and one of the largest for Uber. Time and again both companies have found themselves amid driver protests and both have taken steps to improve pay and incentives as well as provide insurance and other benefits to drivers, but this time around the response has been woeful.
Inc42 spoke to a few driver-partners of both Ola and Uber and found out that not a single one of them got an advisory from the company on coronavirus.
With no information from the company, many of these drivers are relying on news channels and WhatsApp forwards to get information on coronavirus, which is not the recommended course of action. One such driver even sent us a video on WhatsApp in which a religious preacher claimed to be teaching how to treat coronavirus with religious chants.
While most drivers are on the road with either no clue or with wrong information about the serious situation, some at least seemed to be more aware of it. Two such drivers were even wearing masks, which is a basic precaution.
One such driver told us that he got this mask from the company, but that was during the high pollution winter season in Delhi. He added that he didn’t wear the mask at that time but is wearing it now as a precaution. The other driver said that his daughter gave him the mask as a basic step to stop the coronavirus infection. It must be noted that a simple face mask is not going to stop the infection from spreading, though it is a basic precaution.
Our queries to Uber didn’t elicit any response till the time of publication.
In response to Inc42’s querries, Ola said that the health and safety of its customers and driver-partners is the company’s top priority. “Our walk-in centres across cities have been equipped with a steady supply of health advisory material, sanitisers and masks which can be picked up and used by the driver-partners to ensure the highest levels of cleanliness for themselves and their vehicles. This will help create a safer and cleaner ride experience for our customers as well,” Ola said in a statement.
Ola claimed it is reiterating the importance of practising recommended personal hygiene “through a dedicated preparedness module” for driver-partners. It also claimed to be telling customers to adhere to health guidelines including personal hygiene and seeking immediate medical attention if they have any flu-like symptoms.
Besides these, Ola also claimed that it has set up a task-force consisting of members from various internal departments to ensure continuous monitoring and support for all stakeholders. “Our partner care teams and safety response teams are available 24×7 for any concerns that may arise for driver-partners and customers respectively,” the company claimed.