DECLARING ITS intent to impose strict curbs on surge pricing by taxi aggregators, the Maharashtra government Saturday announced implementation of its revised City Taxi policy but said the maximum and minimum fares would be finalised by a fare fixation committee. The fare fixation committee would arrive at its decision within a month, said the policy unveiled Saturday.
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The first draft of the City Taxi scheme was announced in 2015 but subsequently scrapped after the judiciary struck it down. In October 2016, the state transport department published a revised draft naming it ‘Maharashtra City Taxi Scheme 2016’ and sought suggestions and objections from stakeholders by November 5.
On Saturday, Transport Minister Diwakar Raote of the Shiv Sena said at a press meet, “The government has decided to fix minimum and maximum price for app-based cabs. This should address the surge pricing issue. A fare fixation committee under retired IAS officer B C Khatua will finalise the fares.”
Sources said the committee had been asked to finalise the tariff structure within a month. “The same committee will also look into fares and matters in respect of pool or share cabs,” Raote said.
The move comes after commuters complained about being charged twice or three times the normal fare at times when demand for cabs is higher. Various taxi and autorickshaw unions also staged protests demanding regulation and monitoring of the app-based cab services through a separate policy.
“It took us a while to finalise the policy draft as we had received 7,000 suggestions and objections on the draft document. All these were discussed before finalisation of the policy,” Raote added.
According to the revised rules, app-based cab drivers will need to obtain new permits. The app-based taxi permit will restrict operations of the drivers to their respective city of registration. This contrasts current practice whereby operations of the app-based cabs are unrestricted anywhere in the country under the All India Tourist Cab permit. Also, a uniform colour scheme will be introduced for app-based cabs, besides a compulsion to use cleaner fuel and maintain security features including a 24*7 control room and GPS-based vehicle tracking.
“We have permitted kaali-peelis the option of switching over to aap-based aggregators. But once they make such a switch, they won’t have the option of simultaneously plying customers under the rules of general kaali-peelis,” Raote said.
Significantly, the policy retains the draft policy’s clause on increased permit costs vehicles with an engine capacity of more than 1,400 cc, a clause that had been met with strong opposition from Ola and Uber drivers. Such vehicles must form only 30 per cent of the total number of vehicles owned by an aggregator, the police states.
“Vehicles which are more than 1400 cc form the high-end service, including Mercedes, BMW and others, specifically catering to the luxury category. Such higher permit costs are going to put us out of business,” said an Ola driver.
The policy, however, removes the compulsion of having fixed working hours or uniforms for app-based cab drivers. It calls for separate pricing policy in place for small, medium and large cabs depending on costs and category fixed by aggregators.
“Though the move has come after two and a half years of being announced, this is welcome,” said taxi union leader A L Quadros. Taking speedy action against cabs with no permits or drivers operating without badges remained were other suggestions of the taxi unions.
“We will follow the government’s orders. Drives will be carried out to ensure app-based cab drivers get the new permits as soon as possible,” said a senior RTO official.
Mumbai has around 30,000 app-based cabs such as Ola and Uber, in comparison to 45,000 black-and-yellow cabs and more than 1 lakh autorickshaws. Taxi and rickshaw drivers had alleged of losing out on their loyal commuters and operations being affected due to stiff competition received from call cabs.