Kishore Solanki has changed over his school van into portable tidbits distributed in Memnagar from which he serves south Indian admission, for example, medu vada and idli. This is exactly the same van in which the 51-year-old used to get children and drop them off at school before the pandemic.
“I earned about Rs 12,000 every month ferrying children to school,” said Solanki. “In the pandemic, schooling has gone online, there is no income at all. After borrowing money for survival, I decided to switch professions and converted my van into a food joint. My wife cooks the food and I sell it.”
For Solanki, the change was not easy as he had to go without work for six months before he came up with this alternative means of livelihood. With in-person classroom studies being discontinued for about one-and-a-half years amid the Covid-19 pandemic and schools going online, many school van drivers have been rendered jobless. Grim business forecast stems from the fact that despite schools opening for class 8-12, not many students have opted for physically attending school.
For Ritesh Shah, 42, who lives in the Vejalpur area, it was only eight months since he bought a new van for schoolchildren when the pandemic struck. “Earlier I used to drive a bus. But the school authorities for whom I worked discontinued the service and encouraged me to buy a van. I started selling milk in my van when the schools closed down but I faced financial losses and had to give it up,” said Shah. Today he makes a living by selling paani puri and earns about Rs 500 per day.
Indravadan Modi, who is a second generation school van businessman, has a fleet of 10 vans and employs 11 drivers. With schools shut, the vans gather dust as most of his drivers have taken up other jobs to survive. Modi now markets specialized alkaline water machines.
“The water business has kept me afloat. I do not know when schools will fully reopen,” said Modi. “My father started the school van business in 1983, this is the first time such uncertainty has afflicted us.”