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Where’s The Relief Fund, Beleaguered Cab Drivers Ask Ola, Uber

Where’s The Relief Fund, Beleaguered Cab Drivers Ask Ola, Uber

Ola and Uber both launched driver relief funds to support their partners through the Covid-19 crisis

Uber says it has already disbursed money from the INR 25 Cr it has raised but didn't reveal specifics

The companies also claimed that they would offer healthcare support for drivers

Over the last few weeks, cab-hailing giants Ola and Uber have come forward to support their driver-partners. Whether it’s through a special relief fund for financial support or telemedicine services for healthcare, both the companies have been rolling out announcements one after another.

However, it seems like the companies have not been able to send out the same message to their drivers, who have been out of work for three weeks already with three more weeks to go.

Talking to Inc42, Tanveer Pasha, who is the president of the Ola, Taxi For Sure and Uber Drivers and Owners Association in Bengaluru, highlighted that the driver partners of both Ola and Uber have not received any such benefit.

Pasha alleged that Ola disbursed around INR 750 to around 1K driver-partners in Bengaluru two weeks ago and has provided no monetary support or the promised essential supplies. Moreover, he also accused Ola of prioritising new drivers over old ones in disbursing the promised monetary support. Uber has reportedly provided only INR 3K to the drivers in six instalments of INR 500.

When contacted, neither Ola nor Uber shared any data on how much of the fund has been disbursed, which raises serious questions about transparency.

Jitender Arora, a commercial driver from Delhi who has worked with both Ola and Uber in the last five years, told ET that Ola is paying INR 500 a week to the drivers and that too will have to be returned. He also confirmed that Uber is paying INR 3K to only a few partners. He added that this is not enough, especially at a time like this when cabs might not see an uptake until the lockdown is lifted.

Inc42 reached out to both the companies, seeking clarity on the details of the disbursed funds — amount disbursed, frequency of disbursals, the process of disbursals. However, both companies decline to answer specific questions about the utilisation of the funds. Uber has previously announced that it would be launching a transparency report to showcase the utilisation of the fund.

Are Ola, Uber Really Supporting Drivers?

Both Ola and Uber have claimed that companies have disbursed the driver relief fund and have been monetarily supporting them. Ola launched ‘Drive The Driver Fund’ on March 27. For this, CEO and cofounder Bhavish Aggarwal let go of a year’s salary, while Ola Group and employees contributed INR 20 Cr.

Anand Subramanian, spokesperson and head of communications at Ola, in an earlier statement, said, “To support them [Driver Partners] in this testing time, we are launching the ‘Drive the Driver’ fund which will provide bare-necessities to all driver-partners, across auto-rickshaws and kaali-peelis in the form of essential supplies and free medical and emergency support. To this effect, the Ola group has come together to contribute the initial capital for the fund, which can be used to provide immediate aid.”

On the other hand, Uber had launched ‘Uber Care Driver Fund’ of INR 25 Cr. On April 9, the company announced that it has already started disbursing money to driver accounts from the INR 25 Cr it has raised already. It is looking to raise another INR 25 Cr to help stabilise the situations for drivers. However, the company has not said how many drivers and in which regions these funds have been disbursed.

Tall Claims From Ride-Hailing Giants

Besides the lack of clarity about how they have supported drivers, ride-hailing companies have also been questioned about the healthcare support they had promised to extend to drivers. Pasha highlighted that these facilities do not seem to have reached beyond metros.

Pasha further alleged that Ola created promotional campaigns to show solidarity with drivers, but none of these had real Ola drivers. He claimed the campaign was simply to present a good brand image at the time of crisis. Inc42 could not verify the facts around Ola’s promotional campaign independently. Ola did not respond to our questions on the same.

Moreover, Pasha alleged that the companies also did not provide facemasks, sanitizers and healthcare kits before the lockdown was announced, which has been corroborated by drivers Inc42 spoke to last month.

However, he did appreciate the company’s attempts to come up with micro-lending options — Uber Care Micro Credit and Ola’s ‘Sahyog’— for the driver-partners. But he also highlighted that the companies should focus on providing help before monetising the situation with loan offerings.