Saturday 15 May 2021

News Analysed, Opinions Expressed

Have Taxi Operators 'managed' the government?


Can Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, without holding out the threat of introducing Ola and Uber, come to a solution that effectively ends overcharging by taxis?, asks ASWHIN TOMBAT

Most of Goa's taxi operators firmly believe that fleecing customers is their birth right. They resolutely refuse to operate by meter. And, they have resorted to disruptive strikes to keep taxi aggregators like Ola and Uber out.

Of course, there are very good and decent taxi operators too. These guys are polite and helpful. They never overcharge. But they are a tiny minority. Sadly, the vast majority of taxi operators in Goa are the exact opposite.

Their 'thuggery' is not reserved for tourists. They behave exactly the same way with locals.

I have written earlier on the problem of taxis in Goa. After my last column on the subject, I was told in confidence by some eminent citizens who are very close to the highest echelons of the present Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state, that the days of 'dadagiri' by taxi drivers were numbered.

"The Chief Minister is waiting for the tourist season to end," they told me. "In July or August, he will bring in Uber and Ola, and teach the arrogant taxi drivers a lesson." Sadly, this was wishful thinking. Turns out, it was too good to be true.

For, on Thursday 3 August, Transport Minister Ramakrishna alias Sudin Dhavalikar told the Goa Legislative Assembly that the government does not plan to allow global cab aggregators like Uber and Ola to operate in the state. This was a written reply to a question by Benaulim Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MLA Churchill Alemao.

And this is despite a number of BJP MLAs and leaders, including Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) Chairperson Nilesh Cabral, demanding that cab aggregators like Ola and Uber be allowed into Goa.

Just a few days earlier though, on Friday 28 July, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar had assured the Goa Legislative Assembly that all issues related to over-charging by taxi drivers would be resolved by 30 September. He said he would meet all stakeholders on 1 September, and resolve all issues by 30 September 30. "This is my word. The issue is critical for tourism in Goa," Parrikar emphasised.

Goa's non-a/c taxis operate on a rate of Rs19 for the first kilometre and Rs17 for every subsequent kilometre. Also included in the fare is a 50 per cent additional charge for the return — if and only if it is a pre-paid fare. Otherwise, one pays for the entire return. Night charges are 35 per cent higher than day charges.

And that is what 'honest' taxi drivers charge. Most tourists, and quite a few locals too, end up paying much, much more.

Mumbai taxis charge Rs22 for the first 1.5km (Rs14.66 per kilometre) and Rs 15 for every subsequent kilometre. There is no 'return' surcharge. Night charges are 25 per cent higher.

But the question here is not about charges. Whether higher or lower, charges according to the taxi meter give the customer a degree of confidence. The real problem is, Goa's taxi operators simply refuse to operate according to the meter.

Will Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar really take up this issue with all stakeholders on 1 September as he promised the Legislative Assembly? Can he, even without holding out the threat of introducing Ola and Uber, be able come to a solution that effectively ends overcharging by 30 September?

We're deeply skeptical. But, like most of Goa's patient people, we are willing to wait and watch.

In the meanwhile, there is another ray of hope. Radio cab company Mega Cab has announced it will roll out its services in Goa, along with Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Chennai and Jaipur, in the first phase of its new Rs500 crore all-India expansion programme.

Once Megacab is in, can the government realistically keep out Ola and Uber...?

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Ashwin Tombat

Ashwin Tombat has been the Editor of Gomantak Times and Herald. Worked as an Associate Editor of national magazine Gentleman in Mumbai, before shifting to Goa. Loves sailing, also participates in Marathons. Has worked as an activist in students's union and trade unions in Maharashtra. Also an artist of Street Theatre during student days.


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