Even as the number of radio taxis in Delhi has grown exponentially over the last decade — a 700 per cent increase, according to the Delhi Economic Survey — drivers across services say they have found ways to subvert standard practices. With demand still far exceeding supply of cabs, and companies more than willing to keep their vehicles on the road, there are few checks on practices that adversely affect the security of a passenger.
Many drivers who Newsline spoke to said that over the years, a difference between “maalik” and “driver” had surfaced. There are days when the “maalik”, a registered driver of the cab service, marks attendance and after passing on a mobile phone, hands over the vehicle to another person. “There is no camera in the car that prevents us from doing so and, this way, an extra fare is earned and the car stays out on the road for longer.
The passenger only identifies a driver with a phone number and because the SIM card is exchanged, there are very little problems that follow. So when the call is made from the passenger to the driver, he pretends he is the man whose details have been sent via SMS. “I admit that security is a problem and I don’t have control of what the man I have employed will do, but I have to earn a little extra to feed my family,” the driver of a private cab service said.
Birender Singh, president of the e-radio taxi union, said that the “state of the industry” had given drivers extra incentive to find loopholes in the system. “Ever since radio cabs have come into being, most drivers who have an all-India permit have gone out of work. Earlier, they used to get hired for within the city, but this has now stopped completely. They drive radio taxis even when not registered to make ends meet,” he said.
Often drivers switch from one service to the other, using different names and identification, from one day to the next. “On the day meant for rest, many use different identification to ply in a different service. In one, or sometimes both, the personal details may be false, but there are very few checks,” said one driver, showing two identification badges with different names.
Other drivers said they were registered employees of different radio cab services at the same time. “The companies give us different smartphones and at several times, I switch off the smartphone from one company, which has GPS enabled on it, and ply the other service. I am aware that this is against the rules, but we have to get as much business as we can get on board.” an Ola cab driver said.
Drivers often turn off their GPS devices and pick up passengers. “As I return home every day to Sarita Vihar, I pick up six passengers and drop them off, and this money I earn directly, without having to pay anyone else. Often, I am flagged down, and even if the GPS is working, it is easy to pretend that it is temporarily malfunctioning,” a driver said.