Ride hailing service Ola, on March 27, launched the ‘Drive the Driver Fund’ to support auto-rickshaw, cab, kaali-peeli (black and yellow cabs) and taxi drivers, amid the 21-day nationwide lockdown, which has “left the country’s drivers without any daily income”.  “The mobility industry has been brought to a grinding standstill during these stressed times, and the driver community has been finding it hard to pay for their family expenses without a source of income,” Ola said in a blog post.

What the proceeds from the fund will cover: The fund aims to raise Rs 50 crore. Proceeds will be used to:

  • Provide drivers and their families a daily compensation from the day they are tested positive for COVID-19
  • Essential groceries
  • Emergency support for critical illnesses, both COVID-related and otherwise.

Uber is offering its drivers financial assistance for up to 14 days in case they get diagnosed with COVID-19 and are placed in quarantine by the authorities. However, outside of the COVID-19 situation, Ola does not offer health insurance to its drivers and only provides coverage for the downtime in business while a driver is hospitalised.

Ola employees and co-founder Bhavish Aggarwal contribute to the fund: At the time of writing this story, the fund has raised over Rs 21 crore, out of which the Ola group and its employees had contributed ₹20 crore, and co-founder Bhavish Aggarwal has forgone a year’s salary that will be diverted towards the fund. For context, in 2016, Aggarwal had reportedly drawn a salary of ₹39.75 lakh, but had earned about ₹55 crore from sale of Ola shares. The fund will receive contributions from a crowdfunding platform for citizens and other institutions.

  • Ola said that it will disclose how it used the proceeds from the fund in a financial transparency report which will be sent to everyone who would contribute to the fund.

Funds could be disbursed in the next 2 days: The company will not wait for the limit of the fund, that is Rs 50 crore, to be achieved, and disbursement of funds will possibly start in the next two days, a source at Ola told MediaNama. The source also said that this fund is available for all auto-rickshaw, cab, kaali-peeli and taxi drivers and their families, irrespective of the fact if they drive on Ola’s platform or not. The person said that these drivers will have to write to Ola for availing benefits of the fund, mentioning the problems they’ve been facing.

Drivers welcome the move, but also call for cash in hand: Cab drivers, while welcoming the move have also called for providing them with cash in hand to fight the uncertainty of business due to the pandemic. Shaik Salauddin, national general secretary of Indian Federation of App based Transport Workers (IFAT), said that Ola should deposit ₹21,000 (₹1,000 for each day of the lockdown) in their driver partners’ bank accounts, which can later be recovered from them on a weekly basis.

Last week, Ola had waived off lease rentals for its driver partners, and had said that driver-partners and their spouses will be offered free medical support and covered for income loss of upto Rs. 30,000 if tested COVID-19 positive. We’ve asked them if funds for providing this coverage will also come from the Drive the Driver fund. 

Read: COVID-19: Uber, Ola taxi drivers call for reducing commissions till ‘business returns to normalcy’