A PROTEST by drivers of black-and-yellow taxis in the city against cab aggregators Ola and Uber at Azad Maidan on Tuesday afternoon led to seven protesters being arrested by police for allegedly damaging three vehicles by hurling stones. The seven protesters booked for rioting and causing damage hurled stones at three private vehicles assuming they were Ola cabs.
The protest by nearly 4,000 taxi and auto drivers, as per police estimates, was staged by taxi drivers against cab aggregators on grounds that their business was being impacted. Demanding that Ola and Uber services within the city be stopped, the protesters threatened to go on strike on July 26 if their demands are not met. The taxi drivers have protested similarly against the aggregators in the past.
Balasaheb Sanep, member of Jai Bhagwan Taxi Union, said, “These cab drivers run at a rate of Rs 6/ km. Apart from that, many charge exorbitant rates from commuters. Many of these drivers don’t even have authorized permits to run vehicles. We want the State Transport authorities to come down heavily on them at the earliest.”
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After the protest, while majority of drivers left peacefully, a few drivers allegedly hurled stones at a few private taxi operators and media van drivers who had come to cover the event. DCP (zone 1) Manoj Kumar Sharma said that while most of those assembled for the protests did not cause any problems, a group that left separately spotted an Ola cab and broke its windows. They also damaged two media vehicles they suspected were Ola cabs.
The accused were identified as Siraj Varis (30), Ramachandra Rai (33) Abdul Vahab Shaikh (30), Ajay Jaiswal (30), Anil Kumar Gaur (34), Parmeshwar Jadhav (30) and Intiaz Khan (43). The accused have been charged with rioting and causing damage.
Claiming those accused were not among those who had come for the protest, Sanep said, “Those caught are not among ones who had come to observe protest. We were there to raise a point without any intention to hurt any vehicles or property.”
Transport officials claimed that the state government is looking at proper fare regulation of cab aggregators and due action will be taken soon.