Jolted by anti-Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 protests, Assam crawled back to normalcy after a week on Tuesday with curfew being completely withdrawn from Guwahati and few other places. The regular hustle and bustle returned to Guwahati's streets as people resumed their day to day affair without worrying for a time-bound curfew. But a large section of the crowd among city dwellers are fighting for their survival as mobile internet ban has completely crippled their only means of livelihood.
It’s a hand to mouth situation for almost 12,000 Assamese youths who run app-based cab services like Ola Cabs and Uber. Frustrated and agitated, many of them took to Guwahati streets on Tuesday demanding an immediate lift on mobile internet restrictions.
If not heard, the All Assam Cab Operators Union, on behalf of 12,000 drivers, has threatened to start an aggressive movement against the government’s "arrogance" as the next course of action.
"Our business runs on mobile internet and for the last seven days, we are facing a very difficult situation, we are unable to feed our families, recently one of our young drivers came and cried in front of me, he was unable to buy even half a litre of milk for his child. I was helpless. How do I help him, you tell me. Many of us have to pay EMI of Rs 10,000 on a regular basis. Some are frustrated to the core and thinking of committing suicide," Ismail Ali, president of All Assam Cab Operators Union told Firstpost.
The Ola and Uber drivers fear if the mobile internet services are not resumed as soon as possible they will become defaulters of bank car loans. As claimed, they need to pay up to Rs 10,000 as EMI for car loans, and this month they will face a hard time paying this amount.
"In normal circumstances, we work for 18 hours a day and earn anywhere from Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,500 per day. We need to save from that amount to pay EMI’s of our vehicles attached with app-based CAB service, at the same time we must think of our family’s survival," said Ali.
The Ola and Uber drivers were stopped by police while marching towards Janta Bhawan on Tuesday. They have also threatened to leave thousands of cars on GS Road if the government continues to ignore their plea.
"We feel numb at the government's insensitivity. We will leave our vehicles on busy GS Road to create a massive traffic jam. We guess this is the only way the government may hear us," added Ali.
Meanwhile, a section of auto drivers and private taxi drivers are taking undue advantage of the absence of app-based cab services by charging heavy amounts from customers. Left with no other option, travellers are forced to pay the sky-touching prices for smaller distances.
"On Monday evening, I took an auto ride from Hatigaon to Ganeshguri and was charged Rs 500 for that. That’s an insane amount for a two-three kilometres ride," said a resident expressing his displeasure over the current situation.
The absence of mobile internet service has affected all section of people engaged with the digital modes of business in Guwahati. Recently, the concept of cloud kitchen which is primarily a restaurant kitchen that accepts orders online has gained much popularity among Guwahati food entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs who use cloud kitchen services and rely on delivery of food via app-based services like Swiggy, Zomato, Uber Eats are enduring great losses due to the mobile internet ban.
Approximately, there are 20-25 cloud kitchens who operate from Guwahati and are greatly affected by mobile internet ban.
"Our business ranges from Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 on a daily basis and in the last seven days, we have suffered a loss of more than one lakh rupees. That’s a big loss for any new startup. If this continues any longer, we will be in real trouble," said proprietor of a popular cloud kitchen called ‘Yes Biryani’.
Last week, after the anti-CAA protests shook entire Assam including Guwahati, triggering instances of violence one after another, the government banned all mobile and broadband internet services. The ban on broadband services was lifted on Tuesday, but mobile internet still remains suspended.
On Tuesday, the Gauhati High Court after hearing four PIL’s against mobile internet ban has instructed the state government to resume mobile internet services by daybreak. But the uncertainty on the lifting of mobile internet ban still looms large as state government sought a review on this order citing reasons of law and order management. Mobile internet services are unlikely to be restored in the next 48 hours with the government reluctant to do the same.
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Updated Date: Dec 18, 2019 00:01:32 IST