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Dimapur, EM Exclusive

Fighting a big loss, Dimapur’s two-wheel taxis deliver essentials to citizens

By Al Ngullie Updated: Apr 28, 2020 8:44 pm
Two-wheeler taxi riders take a meal at High Noon Diners, a Dimapur restaurant that was converted into a storehouse from where they deliver essentials to citizens in the city. The state of Nagaland is in a lockdown as part of measures to prevent the Covid-19 pandemic from spreading into the state.

Dimapur, April 28 (EMN): Two-wheeler taxis—the ‘Scooties’—in Dimapur were initially one of the few groups in Dimapur to announce home delivery services for citizens of the city when the government of Nagaland announced a lockdown in March to prevent the Coronavirus pandemic from spreading into the state.

The fast developments caused by the coronavirus pandemic across the world and India let to a domino effect. States, one after another, announced lockdowns and border sealing.

This left a gap in the supply chain that also affected the Northeast states including Nagaland, which depends largely on neighbouring states for essentials. It was a gap the lockdown created that someone had had to fill.       

In Dimapur, Nagaland’s principal trading centre and supply conduit for the entire state, closed shop. That was where the trial for citizens in Dimapur began. The problems were myriad in the form of demand for food and domestic essentials and medicines that were compounded by the lack of transportation, and strictures on people from moving out from their homes.

Scooting to the rescue    

On April 6, a group of two-wheeler taxi riders in Dimapur decided to ride in. Just about a score of them, approximately 24 members, the group who had formed into an association, the Nagaland Two-wheeler Taxi Association, Dimapur District (NTWTADD), began delivering essentials to Dimapur citizens at their doorsteps.

The members purchased food essentials and perishables in stocks from villages in and around Dimapur proper to cater to households. Markets and wholesale outlets were closed as were other business establishments then. Keeping a stock was the only option.      

‘We had procured perishable items (vegetables) in large quantities from local farmers and sources at a wholesale but at higher rates than what it is now,’ Joel Ngullie, operations manager of the group’s services stated in texts to Eastern Mirror on Tuesday.

Spoiled cabbages. Piles of bitter gourds, cabbages, aubergines, tomatoes, green chillies etc., became spoiled and had to be discarded.  
Spoiled bitter gourd that had to be discarded.

Then the eventual relaxation of the lockdown regulations from the state’s authorities affected the riders—the stock of vegetables they could procure from whatever stores and outlets that were open that time went to waste.

Piles of bitter gourds, cabbages, Aubergines, tomatoes, green chillies etc., became spoiled as the relaxation allowed certain categories of business establishments to open.  

Then, a couple of days later, the lockdown was relaxed and vegetable sellers in every locality were allowed to do business.

‘This caused us huge losses as we couldn’t dispose all that were in our stock, and eventually more than half of it had to be discarded,” Ngullie said.

“Even after all that, we continue to function on a deficit unable to make up on our investment.”

The taxis’ war room

Ngullie owns a restaurant, High Noon Diners, near the Dimapur town hall. The restaurant is currently a makeshift storehouse for the goods that are to be delivered to citizens who place orders for essentials from their homes.   

The losses notwithstanding, the group feels that there is a need for them to fill the service gap for citizens who depend on the local supply chain but they can neither commute nor travel because of the lockdown.   

‘However bad our own situation, we still stand by our conviction towards giving our best services possible to the citizens of Dimapur town and beyond during lockdowns, Khrozote Kapfo, president of the association’s Dimapur unit, is said to have opined, according to a member.

Business lessons

But there are hard lessons: The taxi riders are not taking chances with vegetables and perishables during this time.

Ngullie said the group now does not want to take the risk of buying perishable items. To keep the services going, they are compelled to buy from the retail stores, or shop for citizens who place various orders for meat, medicines, and dry ration besides vegetables and anything else that customers place orders for.

Besides the vegetables having had to be discarded, the taxi riders aren’t making money. For instance, the members charge only a meagre extra fee to commute and deliver the goods at people’s doorsteps. The fee may not justify the job—the work requires searching the town for goods amid a situation when supply outlets and sellers are scarce, where no-entry zones are one and many.

And then, they travel long distances to deliver the goods to citizens.  

‘All that running around for a meager delivery charges, considering the fact that getting from one point to the other isn’t as easy with roadblocks in many colonies and no-entry points around town,’ Ngullie said. He is also general secretary of the taxi association for Dimapur.

But no back-show

Regardless of the losses they have incurred, the two-wheeler taxis, pictured here at an earlier date, will continue working for the citizens of Dimapur especially during the current situation.

In spite of all the setbacks and the drastic dip in delivery orders the Dimapur two-wheeler riders are ready to sacrifice silently, and are ready to go the extra mile, Ngullie said.

‘We do not do any self-promotion, nor have sought neither received any assistance from govt or organisations, apart from some individuals donating basic protection equipments,’ he wrote.

By Al Ngullie Updated: Apr 28, 2020 8:44:59 pm
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