Coronavirus heroes: Maharashtra’s auto-rickshaw drivers are providing free rides, ration kits, and helping the needy

Auto-rickshaw drivers Ayaz, Shital, and Purushottamlal are Mumbai’s unsung heroes, with hearts bigger than their wallets. The three have been helping citizens negotiate the lockdown over the last six weeks.

The coronavirus pandemic has not been showing any signs of receding, and the number of casualties and positive cases have been rising every single day. Lockdowns all over the world have caused unprecedented socio-economic upheavals such as job losses, hunger, and even homelessness.

The outbreak has particularly left underprivileged people, such as daily wagers and migrant workers, most exposed to the coronavirus and the collateral damage it causes.

In India, Maharashtra has reported the maximum number of coronavirus positive cases – nearly 14,541, according to the latest tally.

The first-ever case in the state was identified on March 9, when a couple flew into Pune, from Dubai. The local government has imposed a mandatory and total lockdown in areas where positive cases have been reported.

Ayaz and Purushottamlal with their rickshaws (Image: The Better India)

Amid all these devastating developments, instances of ordinary people stepping up to the plate to help others has been the glimmer of hope and good we all need right now.

One such person is a Mumbai-based auto-rickshaw driver, named Ayaz, who has been helping transport medically critical passengers and frontline health workers, to hospitals. Ayaz has also been helping NGOs distribute meals, free of cost.

He started ferrying people needing medical intervention the day the nationwide lockdown was imposed, on March 24, and has offered 200 free rides so far.

Shital Sarode from Mumbai’s Ghatkopar is another auto-rickshaw driver who has been providing transportation services during the lockdown. She often helps the needy travel across the city, for free.

“I am driving an auto-rickshaw during the lockdown so that I can help the people in these difficult times. I feel happy. I am not doing this work for money. Before the lockdown, I was driving a rickshaw and earned money for my family. But now I am driving an auto-rickshaw for social service and to help the people in need,” Shital told ANI.

Meanwhile, Purushottamlal Gupta – another auto-driver from Thane – has been raising money to buy and distribute ration kits to his fellow drivers and construction workers.

“It has been over a month since my income has come to a halt. Though fortunately, we can afford ration, a lot of the auto drivers and daily wage earners in our basti (neighbourhood) are struggling to get even a morsel of rice. When no help came forward, I decided to raise donations and buy ration kits for them,” Purushottamlal told The Better Indian.

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Edited by Aparajita Saxena


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