Around 100 cabs drivers, who worked with Uber and other application-based cab services which were banned last week, staged a day-long protest at Jantar Mantar on Friday against the decision.
They said the government had snatched their livelihood without warning. With no association to represent them yet, drivers said they gathered at Jantar Mantar after getting WhatsApp messages. They said they had no idea who started the process.
With mediapersons converging on them, drivers discussed the need to first “plan their protest”. Soon, banners made an appearance with slogans like “Aise driver ko commercial licence kyun diya gaya”, “Doshi ko saza do humhe hamara rozgaar karne do”. Drivers said till the ban was revoked and the government framed better safety guidelines, they will continue their protest.
Ranjeet Singh, who was working with Uber for a year, said, “The authorities have passed the buck to the company to cover up their negligence. Why hasn’t the Transport department office, which issued him his licence and permit, been banned? If he had an all-India permit, he had a driver’s badge from the Transport department. How did officials issue that without verifying his record? One driver committed a heinous crime, there is no denying that. But is it fair to make all of us starve for that?”
Ashish Singh, another driver, said, “I think we should have a mini-poll to elect office bearers, otherwise there will be chaos.”
Periodical announcements were made by different people to gather the crowd which increased slowly. Many drivers said they had purchased new cars with surety provided by Uber and that had helped them get loans. They said now they had no way to pay their EMIs.
Ravinder Kumar said he had purchased a cab two months ago. “Uber gave a certificate stating I was their driver-partner, which helped me get a loan. How do I pay the EMIs now? I have three daughters and a wife who is ill. For four days I have not received a booking from Uber, I double up at Ola and the government has declared them unregistered as well,”Kumar said.
Vijender Malik, a driver, said Uber was a good place to work with. “For the first time, a company gave drivers the stature of partners. For every Rs 10,000 we billed, they gave us Rs 2,000 as incentive — payments were direct and instant. I have dues of over Rs 50,000 and cheques keep bouncing from a company the government calls registered,” he said.
Drivers said instead of banning their service, government should work out safety measures, which they would comply with. “We were giving a service. If the government could guarantee safe public transport for people, particularly women, would private taxis have flourished?” Raghu Singh, who has been driving taxis in Delhi for 20 years, said.