Hyderabad: This past week, the drivers in TSRTC have ferried hundreds of people landing at Rajiv Gandhi International Airport (RGIA) from abroad to isolation wards in various parts of Telangana, and they have been doing this round-the-clock.
According to people on location, around 15 Corporation drivers from the Mehdipatnam depot have been deputed exclusively for that work, doing 12-hour shifts, they make trips to isolation wards in Vikarabad, Doolapally and other districts.
Srisailam, a driver of one of the Vajra buses, said that he was terrified when he first arrived at the airport. There was commotion, and there were policemen and health officials everywhere but one particular sight had an impression on him.
“I saw a person being made to walk out of the airport in a full plastic suit. He stepped straight into an ambulance and was taken away very quickly. Later, my colleagues told me that this person had exhibited fever symptoms and was being treated as a suspected Covid-19 case. I will never forget that sight.”
Most drivers said they had not informed their families about what they were doing. PR Reddy said his family was terrified of letting me report for duty.
“Even my relatives called up, rebuked me and asked me to drop out. After the first day, I stopped telling them where I was going,” he said.
Srisailam said his family was treating him with suspicion.
“When I go home after work, my family is not letting me inside immediately. They give me a bucket of hot water where I have to soak the clothes I am wearing. After that, I have to take a bath. Only then am I allowed inside,” he said.
Unfortunately, for all the risks involved and putting their life in peril, they have not been given sanitisers or masks.
Salim contended that this could be to prevent them from panicking. “We have been instructed by our superiors to stay away from the people we transport and wash our hands and face every hour,” he said.
That the buses have a locked cabin for the driver does give the men some peace of mind. However, they said anxiety haunts them.
They have indeed seen some interesting things in the past few days.
Salim said, “A few days ago, a young girl who had just landed from Germany or somewhere was asked to sit in my bus. The poor girl was terrified when she heard she was being sent into isolation. It took an official and some policemen took at least 15 minutes to convince the young girl. I noticed that they had to do this while maintaining some distance from her.”
Salim, Srisailam and Reddy said that senior officials, including the regional manager, were coming to check on them regularly. They have been getting `100 a day for their food.
“We are being taken care of very well,” said Reddy. When asked what they thought of their work, the drivers said their fear was outweighed by their pride.
“I am happy that after the doctors and policemen, we are playing a part in keeping Telangana safe. I know there is a risk in what we are doing right now but it will help the state. That’s all I need to know,” said Salim.