Sri Lankan rickshaw driver running on empty

STORY: On the outskirts of Sri Lanka’s capital city Colombo, vehicles stretch out in a long line for what seems like miles.

They are all just waiting for a chance to fill up the tank as an acute fuel shortage grips the South Asian country.

Lasanda Deepthi drives a 'tuk tuk' – or rickshaw - for the ride hailing app PickMe.

"Because of the current crisis, we have to allocate more time to wait in lines. I have to get up earlier, finish all my housework and then come here to wait. Sometimes, I even sleep inside the tuk tuk and go to work from here. “

Sri Lanka is mired in its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948 sparked by the COVID pandemic and tax cuts.

Rising costs, falling incomes and shortages of everything - it’s all taking a toll on Deepthi and millions like her.

For years, she has supported her family of five on about $140 dollars a month.

But today, it’s about half that.

Besides the grueling wait for petrol - which can run up to 12 hours - Deepthi also has to pay for it.

Prices have more than doubled over the past eight months.

The crisis has sparked street protests.

In response, the country’s new prime minister has vowed to cut expenditure and send those funds to a two-year welfare program.

The country is also in discussions with the IMF for a badly-needed loan.

But Deepthi is disillusioned.

She has already had to sell her car and is behind on payments for a piece of land she bought before the pandemic struck.

From behind the wheel of her rickshaw, she cannot see what her future will be.

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