Cabbies seek flat fare, minister promises talks

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BENGALURU:  Karnataka transport minister R Ramalinga Reddy said on Monday that he would have a roundtable with taxi-hailing aggregator companies on issues concerning cabbies on Tuesday or Wednesday. The talks offer follows a representation from the drivers’ union that met him on the sidelines of the Road Safety Week programme on Monday.

Members owing allegiance to the Ola, Taxi For Sure and Uber (OTU) Drivers’ Union stayed off roads from dawn to dusk on Monday , protesting differential tariff followed by aggregators. They demanded a flat, government approved rate -Rs19.5 per km for AC vehicles and Rs 14.5 per km for non-AC vehicles.
At present, Ola and Uber charge Rs 6 or Rs 7 per km, depending on the type of vehicle, but they also charge a base rate of Rs 40 and ride time charges of Re 1 per minute.

The strike partially affected cab services in most parts of the city . The drivers staged a day-long protest at Freedom Park. By evening, the protesters wound up, declaring they will resume services not before serving an ultimatum on the aggregators: If there is no positive response in three days, they will storm the offices of the aggregators in the city . OTU Union president Tanveer Pasha said, “We have decided to forgo incentives the companies offer with riders like completing 24 trips a day. The penalties for reaching a customer late or getting an average rating are hefty . We don’t want incentives and penalties. The legally approved fare for cabs is fixed by RTOs and cab aggregators should charge customers the same. That is transparent, and there are no hidden costs like ride-time charges and surge pricing.”
He claimed that 30,000 cab drivers affiliated to aggregators are part of the union. The total number of drivers plying vehicles on Ola and Uber platforms would be about 1lakh in Bengaluru. He said the discountedflat rates for airport commute are a huge burden on the drivers. “Last month, they offered Rs 450 flat rate for airport rides and we ended up paying the toll. But we take 3-4 hours to ferry passengers from Electronics City or Whitefield to the airport which would cost Rs 900 or more. This is unfair. Airport taxis (Meru, Mega and KSTDC) charge government-approved fares and customers pay the toll,” Pasha added.

MISSION DOOMED?
Transport minister Ramalinga Reddy is sceptical about his intervention in the cause of cabbies. He told TOI that there is little role the government can play in the issue as it is between the aggregator companies and drivers. “We can only tell the companies to stick to the maximum tariff prescribed by the state government and ask them to stick to it. We have already told them that they are at liberty to charge less but certainly not more. Let me see what I can do,” he said.