Pros and Cons of Ola, Uber...

By Ashwin Tombat
01 May 2017 13:13 IST

Let me say at the very outset, I know some very good and decent taxi operators. These people are polite, very helpful, and never overcharge. But the operative word is 'some'. A much larger number of taxi operators in Goa are the exact opposite.

That is why an online petition on http://www.change.org, started by an NRI of Goan origin Mahesh Sardesai and addressed to Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, seeking the entry of Ola and Uber cab services in Goa, has gone viral and gathered thousands of signatures. It has zeroed in on the immense resentment that many Goans and regular visitors to this state have — often for very good reasons — against the taxis that operate in Goa.

The taxi operators' unions (which the tourist trade calls the taxi mafia) had raised hell when Ola tried to set up operations in the state in February 2014. A two-day taxi strike brought tourist activity to a standstill, and the government caved in. Emboldened by this, they have gone on strike twice more, to effectively end government efforts to make meters in cabs compulsory.

Taxi operators could be justifiably afraid of large aggregator companies. But to refuse to operate by meter? That's sheer greed and arrogance.

But their mendacity does not end here. They refuse to allow coaches to transport guests from hotels. They threaten, abuse and even attack. Many of Goa's taxi operators, especially those who operate from hotels, behave exactly like a mafia.

 

So they should not be surprised that not just tourists and people in the travel trade, but Goa's ordinary people are thoroughly fed up with their goonda tactics. Goa's 7,000 tourist taxis have succeeded in the past in making the government concede their most ridiculous demands, but they must realise that if public opinion is against them and if the government is determined to change things, there is little they can do.

For example, when the Railway workers went on strike in 1974 and the local trains were not moving, the state government simply passed an order permitting all private and goods vehicles to carry paying passengers till further notice. Thousands of cars, buses, pick-up trucks and lorries ferried millions of Mumbai-kars to work, making money in the bargain, as well as effectively neutralising the effect of the Rail strike. The government could do something similar in Goa, if the taxi operators threaten another strike, if and when meters are made compulsory.

Does that mean I support the petition? Here, I am not quite so sure.

We must be careful what we wish for. Aggregator services like Ola and Uber have faced strong opposition from regular taxi operators not just in Goa, where the latter's 'Jungle Raj' rules, but even in places like Mumbai, where cabbies go strictly by the meter, and internationally, in Paris and Berlin.

Ola and Uber taxi operators themselves have gone on strike against the company in Delhi and Bangalore, owing to inordinately long working hours and steep reduction in incentives.

More important, Goa already has too many taxis. Ola and Uber will mean a further geometric increase. Bangalore had 53,000 registered taxis in 2013-14 which doubled to 1.13 lakh by October 2016. The numbers of taxis in Delhi has doubled in the last two years to 80,000. Ola and Uber will bring in not only taxis from outside, but operators as well...

It's very important to teach Goa's taxi drivers some basic human courtesy, apart from the need to go by meter. But let us consider not just the pros but also the cons of bringing in the big boys like Ola and Uber very carefully, before we do it.

Blogger's Profile

Ashwin Tombat

Ashwin Tombat has been the Editor of Gomantak Times and Herald. Worked as an Associate Editor of national magazine Gentleman in Mumbai, before shifting to Goa. Loves sailing, also participates in Marathons. Has worked as an activist in students's union and trade unions in Maharashtra. Also an artist of Street Theatre during student days.

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