REGULATION OF minimum and maximum fares, imposing a minimum distance for levying fares and reducing the permit fee costs remain some of the major suggestions of the City Taxi Scheme 2016, submitted to the Maharashtra transport department till Saturday.
The revised draft of the scheme, made public to invite suggestions and objections from the transport department in October, led to the receival of 1,000 suggestions — all from stakeholders.
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The earlier draft, City Taxi Scheme 2015, which sought to impose a restriction on the number of app-based cabs in the city, was scrapped and a revised draft was unveiled by the government for public review this year. The highlights of the new scheme include a cap on the minimum and maximum fares of the app-based cabs, increasing the permit costs for bigger vehicles, uniform colour code for app-based cabs, compulsion on usage of cleaner fuel and introducing uniforms, badges and working hours for the drivers.
However, the draft received a mixed response from different groups with taxi unions praising the regulation on fares and popular cab aggregator Uber, with the support of 1 lakh voters starting a petition against the policy. Among this, leading consumer rights group Mumbai Grahak Panchayat also submitted suggestions after taking submissions from different groups who are likely to get impacted by the policy.
“Deciding the minimum distance for levying of fares by the transport authorities remains our major suggestion. We have also suggested that the government should observe a 20 per cent bracket to the minimum and maximum of fares so that competition is observed. Doing away with the uniform colour code scheme and decreasing the permit costs for drivers are some other suggestions,” said Shirish Deshpande, president of Mumbai Grahak Panchayat.
Cab-aggregator Ola, while welcoming the move, urges the government to re-consider permit fee costs and also the proposed mandatory norm of keeping 50 per cent of the total taxis attached to any aggregator with an engine capacity of 1,400CC or more. On the other hand, cab-aggregator Uber has raised concerns relating to the norm of introducing fuel-efficient cars and pricing restrictions, saying that it may lead to a longer waiting time for riders and higher charges.
“We have given suggestions and objections to the scheme to the government. Our only demand this time is to ensure that the government takes a decision in this regard and not delay it any further. Whichever scheme gets implemented, it should lead to healthier competition for kaali-peeli drivers,” said KK Tiwari, taxi union leader.
“Letting go off surge pricing in app-based cabs and making use of CNG compulsory in all vehicles remain our major suggestion. We would also like the government to issue fresh permits to taxi and rickshaw drivers that would boost the strength of its dwindling number in the city,” said Shashank Rao, rickshaw union leader.
Drivers of app-based cabs also protested against introducing a regulation on their working hours and permit fee costs. Higher costs involved in buying vehicles running on cleaner fuels, implementation of uniforms and procuring new badges were some of the issues raised against the scheme and a petition on the same has been submitted to the government.
“The revised draft only lowers the business opportunities of app-based cab aggregators in the city. They are a private entity in themselves who are offering a more convenient and appreciated mode of transport to commuters. It is time the government draws a comprehensive transport policy which will decide the fate of all public transport stakeholders in the city,” said Rishi Agarwal, transport and urban development expert.
The draft scheme will have an impact on almost 30,000 app-based cabs in the city, that are currently enjoying a positive response due to their low-priced models and implementation of smart technologies. It will also impact over 40,000 kaali-peeli and autorickshaw drivers in the city whose monopoly was threatened with increased competition.
“We will now prepare a cumulative list of suggestions and objections received which will then be submitted to the government. Nothing on it can be said now as we will take at least a week’s time to observe the comments received and the final policy will be decided by the government. We are very happy with the number of responses received for the revised draft,” said Praveen Gedam, transport commissioner.
Experts predict kaali-peeli conversion to app-based cabs “If majority of the suggestions are accepted by the government that facilitates movement of app-based cabs, a conversion in large numbers is possible. Better revenue options and tendency to attract more commuters in call cabs could make this change happen,” Deshpande added.
“A likely switch of kaali-peeli drivers to app-based cabs is possible. As a majority of the kaali-peeli drivers pay heavy rents to the owners, the opportunities of earning more in an Ola or Uber are much higher. WIth better training and behavioral lessons, this can be facilitated,” said A V Shenoy, transport expert.
The scheme is essentially aimed at curbing the dynamic pricing model of cab aggregators. It also includes surge pricing which allows for charging two or three times higher than the actual fare when then is higher demand of vehicles with lesser supply. Surge pricing has already been banned in Delhi and Karnataka, while Maharashtra waits to adopt the model.