FOLLOWING a day-long strike on Tuesday, the black-and-yellow taxis are likely to stay off roads on Wednesday as well with the Nitesh Rane-led Swabhimaan Union stating that it would push for an indefinite strike until the state government assures them of action. Nearly 10,000 taxis stayed off roads Tuesday to protest the different monitoring regime for web-based taxi services in the city.
The Swabhimaan Taxi-Rickshaw Union led by Congress MLA Nitesh Rane also staged a protest morcha near the office of the transport commissioner Tuesday against the ‘illegal’ operation of web-based cabs. Drivers of Mumbai’s iconic black-and-yellow taxis are up in arms against web-based taxi service providers such as Ola and Uber, fearing that lower fares on the latter taxis will drive the kaali-peelis off the roads.
“The issue is that while our rates begin from Rs 22 per km for non-AC cabs and Rs 25 per km for AC cabs, their per km charge is much lower. Customers tend to be lured by the lower rates. This is causing major loss to over 63,000 taxi drivers,” said K K Tiwari of the Swabhiman Union. He also said the drivers of such cab services did not have badges issued by the state transport department, making it a security concern.
He added that the union had not been invited for a dialogue with the government and would continue to be on strike till the government provided some assurance.”There is no timeline to our strike. We are waiting for the government to tell us that they are going to look into our demands. As of now, we plan to stay off roads on Wednesday also and include autorickshaws to the strike as well,” he added.
Anthony Quadros from Mumbai Taximen’s Union said while their taxis did not participate in the strike, they were not allowed to ply and were attacked if they tried to operate their taxis. “The Narayan Rane union has resorted to attacking taxis which were plying,” he said.
Meanwhile, Transport Commissioner Sonia Sethi said she was in talks with all the representatives. “We were waiting for the Government of India advisory regarding regulations on information technology based transportation aggregators. But we have been told that it is going to take some time for them to be notified. We are in the process of issuing a notification,” said Sethi.
Citing that the mobile application based taxi services were directly impacting them, the drivers of black-and-yellow taxis said they had resorted to protests in a bid to survive in the face of competition. “We are not against competition or providing better taxi services. In fact, we never had any objection to fleet taxi services like Meru, TabCab and EasyCab as they were not impacting our business at all. Our objection is only to these ‘illegal’ mobile application-based taxi services such as Uber, Ola and TaxiForSure,” said Vaikunth Misra, a taxi driver at Churchgate.
The taxi drivers have alleged that unlike the kaali-peeli taxis and fleet taxis, the web-based taxi services such as Uber and Ola did not have the permit to operate in the city. “We have a permit from the state transport department. Similarly, Meru, TabCab and EasyCab have been registered as radio taxis or fleet taxis under the Fleet Taxi Scheme of 2006. All these other cabs only have tourist licence,” added Misra, who hails from Bihar but has been working as a taxi driver in the city for the past 11 years .
Another taxi driver from Churchgate, Raj Kishore Yadav said he had been driving a taxi in Mumbai for the past 15 years. He sold his Fiat and bought a Santro in 2012. He has to pay Rs 10,500 as EMI towards his loan every month, which has become very difficult with Uber and Ola eating into his business.