Ashish Gupta, 30, New Delhi, taxi driver
Ashish Gupta, 30, New Delhi, taxi driver

After virus threw his life out of gear, taxi driver pins hope on govt to save him from disaster

After virus threw his life out of gear, taxi driver pins hope on govt to save him from disaster

Life has been rather difficult, of late, for 30-year-old Ashish Gupta who drives a taxi for a living. His regular airport runs, he now knows, are risky: the international airport in New Delhi is a high-risk place with Covid-19 patients returning from various disease hotspots around the world.

“I have read about coronavirus in the newspapers. Have watched it on television news channels as well. I get scared when too many passengers get into the car, and anyone sneezes. I have started wearing a mask to protect myself," he said.

Gupta knew that he was putting his life at substantial risk by exposing himself to different passengers throughout the day, including riders from the airport, who may have come back to India from different parts of the world.

“I am scared but I have no choice. This is my only source of income," said Gupta, adjusting the mask around his face.

Things have drastically changed for Gupta in the past weeks. The international and domestic airport terminals are deserted as the government has suspended all domestic flights and stopped international flights landing in the country.

The streets are empty since Sunday. Railway stations, bus terminals, shopping malls and schools are shut and people are working from home.

“Until early March, I used to make decent money and complete a dozen trips in a day," he said.

The number of trips began plummeting soon after as fewer people stepped out and Gupta’s income sank to a fourth.

The 14-hour janata curfew on 22 March came at the end of a week-long lockdown in the national capital.

On Tuesday evening, Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed a 21-day nationwide curfew and asked people to not step out of their houses.

Gupta is now without an income. Worse, his three-year-old daughter was diagnosed with blood cancer less than a week ago.

“I am really worried about my daughter. It is even more difficult to get her treatment done," he said.

“I don’t know what to do. I have lost my only source of income. My daughter is sick. I have to pay instalment (EMI) for the taxi (a hatchback) that I had bought three years ago," he said.

In the past few days, Gupta has been running frantically to and from Central to South Delhi. His daughter was being treated at Kalawati Saran Children’s Hospital in Central Delhi and the case was later referred to Safdarjung Hospital in South Delhi.

However, with the rising number of coronavirus patients and suspects in the national capital, Safdarjung Hospital said they may not be able to handle the case at the moment.

“They have asked us to get the treatment done at Kalawati Saran Hospital. But I will get a clearer picture in a day or so," he said.

Amid the hardship and uncertainty, Gupta is still full of hope.

“While I am scared about the uncertainty, I have immense hope that the government will be able to bring us out of this disaster," he said.

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