Coronavirus Impact: Cabbies helpless as GVK cuts power, locks toilets at taxi stand near Mumbai airport

Updated: May 22, 2020, 14:50 IST | Prajakta Kasale | Mumbai

Airport taxi drivers say they have nowhere to go amid the lockdown; GVK MIAL says they are following regulatory compliance

Drivers are surviving on food packets distributed by good Samaritans
Drivers are surviving on food packets distributed by good Samaritans

Close to 125 drivers taking shelter at the airport taxi stand were in for a rude shock on Wednesday when the GVK cut off the electricity connection, disrupting water supply, and locked the toilets without giving them prior notice. GVK Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL) justified depriving stranded people of basic needs by saying that they were "following regulatory compliances".

Before the pandemic hit, over 1,000 airport taxi drivers and their helpers, with no homes in the city, used to stay at the stand, located behind the Hyatt Regency hotel, a few hundred metres away from the T2 gate of the international airport. Majority of them managed to return to their native places since the lockdown was imposed in March, but around 125 are still stuck. They are surviving on the food packets they receive from good Samaritans.

"MIAL didn't come forward to help the taxi drivers in these challenging times. The drivers were shocked to see the electricity supply to a canteen was cut off," said Rajeevkumar Mishra, executive president of Bhartiya Taxi Chalak Sangh.

Driver Krishnkant Pande said, "Over 100 of us are staying here and suddenly, without any notice or discussion with us, they cut off electricity connection. They even locked the latrines. There are two water tanks which we used fill up using a motor, but now water supply has also stopped due to power cut. We have no place to go to in the city." Another taxi driver asked, "How will we manage without electricity and water?"

Locked toilet at the taxi standLocked toilet at the taxi stand

"The entire country is in lockdown and these men are not able to return to their hometowns. Is it fair to snap power and water connection in such a situation. Isn't it inhuman?" asked Abhijeet Samant, corporator from Andheri-Vile Parle, who brought the issue to the forefront. "Before lockdown, the drivers would make around 7,000 trips daily and for each trip GVK MIAL earned R70. This means MIAL got R5 lakh every day. And in return, the company offered no help to the drivers and no food. And when the drivers were somehow managing to survive, they cut off electricity and water," said Mishra.

He added that hundreds of drivers have been working at this taxi stand for over 50 years. "We won't let people use the lockdown to vacate the land."

A GVK MIAL spokesperson said, "We are following regulatory compliances and would not like to make any further comments on this."

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