Uber driver’s death leaves family without breadwinner, spurs calls for suspending app-based ride-hailing

Anil Subba with wife Shanta, on couch, and children, from left Tancho, Renu, and Parkash taken during “Bhai pujan” the prayer for brothers’ well-being, after ceremony (Photo: GoFundMe courtesy family)

A Nepalese-origin Uber driver who lived in Jackson Heights, died of the coronavirus March 23, 2020. His older sister told News India Times he was a good man always ready to help others in trouble. His family is bereft as he was the only breadwinner.

Anil Subba had carried an infected passenger from JFK Airport in the first week of March, according to news reports quoting family members. He checked into hospital more than two weeks before his death on showing signs of the virus. The New York Post reported he was put on the ventilator two days before he succumbed.

The Independent Drivers Guild blamed poor planning by authorities.

“The government was telling returning travelers to go home and self-quarantine but wasn’t providing a safe way to get them home,” the Guild said in a statement March 25, offering its condolences to Subba and his family “who depended on him and could not even be with him in his final days due to this cruel virus.”

News India Times spoke to his older sister Pushpalata Subba, 54, who spoke in Hindi as she said her English was not good, “Poor man, he was a good man, very social, always helping those in trouble,” The family lives in a two-bedroom apartment on Elmhurst street, and they are now not able to meet their rent, Pushpalata said. Subba’s wife Shanta was a housewife, his 21-year old daughter is studying nursing; and his son Parkash, 22, is still in college. The youngest son, who was born in the U.S., is in school.

For Subba’s family, his wife and 3 children, he was the only source of income and a Gofundme.com account set up on behalf of the family by Pushpalata Subba. It is entitled, “Support Family Of Coronavirus Victim (COVID-19), and was set up March 25. It gives the Subba’s full name as Anil Subba Limbo aka Ramesh Sambahamfe, noting that he died March 23 in Elmhurst Hospital. “It was the first reported death of people of Nepali origin due to coronavirus in the USA,” the Gofundme account says. Subba Limbu was 49 years old and was born in Rani Village of Panchtahar district. “He was Uber driver (sic) and active member of various Nepali social and cultural organizations,” the GoFundMe page says.

Anil Subba, the Uber driver who died March 23, 2020, according to the GoFundMe.com page. (Photo GoFundMe courtesy Anil Subba Family Organizer)

As of March 26, 2020 morning, $12,362 had been raised on GoFundMe, overshooting the goal of $10,000.

“Where were the quarantine shuttles with drivers in protective gear like we saw transporting cruise ship passengers?” the Guild questioned, demanding the government and the app companies “step up and do better by these hardworking men and women and deliver emergency compensation.”

Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, NYTWA, told the New York Post drivers were anxious especially those who did not have a protective barrier separating them from passengers in their vehicle.

Desai said the example set by India which had suspended app-based ride-hailing altogether, should be emulated, The Post indicated.

“If there is a clear pattern here, the companies and the city need to suspend the service and let drivers know they are already covered for unemployment [insurance] in New York state Workers aren’t expendable. Put drivers first before profit and politics,” Desai said in a statement quoted in The Post.




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