Commuters faced a harrowing time on Monday with as many as 40,000 Ola and Uber taxis off the roads in support of a nationwide strike called by the transport wing of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) against cab aggregators. While suburban local trains were more crowded than usual, in some places, drivers of black-and-yellow cabs reportedly charged more than the fare on the metre. More than 60,000 drivers supported the strike to draw attention to their lower financial returns and blacklisting of drivers by the companies. Most drivers opted to remain offline, thus refusing to take any passenger during the day.
On Monday morning, regular users of Ola and Uber, to places such as Churchgate, Lower Parel, Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC), Andheri, Worli and Goregaon, found the fares sky-high. Rashi Goregaonkar, who often takes an app-based cab to Lower Parel, preferred to take a kaali-peeli on Monday. “I had to wait for at least 20 minutes to get a cab for such a long commute in the morning. The driver ended up asking for Rs 200 extra. I had to give in as there were so few cabs on the road,” she said.
Many preferred to drive to their destinations as the roads were comparatively less congested. Surabhi Puri, a social media manager, said: “It usually takes 40-45 minutes for me to reach Powai by road from Andheri. Today (on Monday), I reached in less than 20 minutes. The road was emptier.”
Sanjay Naik from the union that led the protest said: “We sacrificed our day’s earnings to raise important issues faced by the drivers. We will continue to remain offline till noon on Tuesday as the cab companies have assured us that they will talk to us.”
In a statement, the Uber spokesperson said, “We regret the disruption caused to our rider and driver community by a small group of individuals.The Honorable Bombay High Court issued an injunction prohibiting unions, their leaders and anybody else from obstructing the activities of Uber driver partners. We welcome this, and hope that it will enable drivers to stay behind the wheel, something many have been telling us they wish to do. While the authorities have taken steps to ensure minimal disruption to our rider and driver communities, we hope that they will continue to enforce the order passed by the High Court.”
An Ola spokesperson said they made sure those who plied their cabs were safe. “We have been informed by the Mumbai Police that they have pro-actively taken all necessary steps to ensure the safety of commuters during their cab rides in the city,” the spokesperson said.