Taxi-hailing services of Ola and Uber have been partially affected by a strike called by various unions protesting against a recent hike in driving licence and other fees by the Regional Transport Office (RTO) in addition to the flexible fare structure followed by cab aggregators and falling income of drivers associated with them.
The protesters from various unions assembled at the Shantinagar bus depot to begin the one-day strike, which the association says is a warning to the authorities. Auto, app-based cab and airport taxi drivers’ unions, in addition to trade union bodies such as CITU and AITUC are participating in the strike.
Tanveer Pasha, president of Ola, TaxiForSure and Uber (OTU) Drivers’ and Owners’ Union, said drivers associated with Meru, Mega, Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC), Ola and Uber besides auto drivers are participating in the strike. He said at least 40,000 cabs would be off the road on Wednesday.
Pasha said the unions primarily want the government to recall the recent hike in driving licence fees. Secondly, they demand action against cab aggregators who violate government regulations. They also want the government to ensure that taxi-hailing companies such as Uber and Ola follow the fee structure fixed by the government. In addition, the agitating unions want app-based taxi providers to change their unfriendly policies towards drivers to help them earn decent wages.
“This strike is also against app-based taxi providers’ unfriendly policies towards drivers. We want them to continue offering good incentives, provide better work timings and help drivers increase their incomes so that they can pay their monthly EMIs,” Pasha said.
He said various unions from Chennai and Hyderabad are also on strike on Wednesday. Different unions from Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, and Chennai are working together to call for a nationwide strike if their demand are not addressed.
Karnataka State Transport Commissioner MK Aiyappa has called for a meeting to discuss app-based taxi drivers’ concerns. The meeting will be attended by Uber and Ola representatives and drivers.
Email queries sent to Uber and Ola, to understand how far the strike has affected their services, did not elicit an immediate response.
Meanwhile, the indefinite strike called by drivers of Uber and Ola in the national capital region has entered the fifth day. While a few unions have called off the strike, many drivers—led by Sarvodaya Driver Association of Delhi, a registered NGO that claims to have over 2,000 members—are continuing their protest demanding better incentives and more bookings.
The protest got out of control on Monday, with drivers gathering around Ola’s offices in Delhi. A person aware of the development told Techcircle that after protests flared up at one of its offices, the cab-hailing company, in a pre-emptive move, ensured that its staff, across offices, left for home earlier than usual.
Meanwhile, an Uber spokesperson said the company has moved the court over protesting drivers forcibly stopping rides, and the court has passed a restraining order against driver unions, asking them not to stop any cabs from running.
Thousands of people across Delhi-NCR have been affected by the ongoing agitation that began last Friday. Apart from unavailability of cabs and skyrocketing rates, there have been instances of protesting drivers forcibly stopping rides and snatching away GPS devices. Without the device, a driver cannot accept ride requests.
Last month, drivers of the taxi aggregators went on a five-day strike in Hyderabad and, three weeks ago, a similar strike was organised in Bangalore, with drivers echoing the same demands—better incentives and more bookings. The drivers allege that their incomes have drastically reduced in recent months as the taxi-hailing firms continue to acquire more cabs.
The protesters are also demanding shorter work hours, accident insurance and an increase in the minimum charge of Rs 6 per kilometre.
App-based taxi providers operate a car-leasing programme that allows drivers to run a car on lease and earn Rs 60,000-70,000 per month. Hundreds of new drivers were on-boarded for this recently. However, as the numbers grow, existing drivers are finding it difficult to secure enough bookings and their incomes.