Ride-sharing services allowed for next 15 days as firms stick to stand

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BENGALURU: The transport department allowed Uber and Ola on Friday to operate their ride-sharing services for the next 15 days following the cab aggregator companies submitting an explanatory note to the department stating they were well within the state government norms to operate the service.

The cab firms submitted the note to the government after the department began cracking down vehicles on Friday morning. “We have sent their clarification note to our legal department to verify their claims and whether they have the right to operate the service under the Motor Vehicle Rules. We have allowed them to operate the ride-sharing services for the next 15 days,” said transport commissioner MK Aiyappa.

On Monday, the transport department had said that the aggregators violated the contract carriage permit that did not allow multiple pick up and drop points. The department also gave the two firms three days to change their software or else the services would be banned from Friday. The department had maintained it stand till Thursday and had even seized a few cabs plying under UberPOOL and OlaShare.

Uber had on Thursday said that UberPOOL was well within the legal framework of the Karnataka Motor Vehicle Rules.

“First of all the rules are not clear. There are plethora of views and pending cases on the contract carriage rules. But we have to also understand that the technologies have evolved now and the rules were adopted decades ago. If we look at the letters, the government is right, but in spirit the companies are right,” said Amit Bhatt, urban mobility expert at World Resources Institute.

Bhatt said the new taxi policy adopted by the ministry of road transport and highways last December focusses on shared mobility. “The policy explicitly says ride sharing should be encouraged. A car with four people is much more sustainable than with one or two occupants including the driver. The government should have updated the rules and regulations accordingly. It should act fast and decide on framing the rules for shared mobility in the larger interest,” he said.

Bengaluru has a greater advantage of becoming the leader in framing rules for new modes of urban mobility because in one way it has already taken one step forward in framing the aggregator rules,” Bhatt added.

First of all the rules are not clear. There are plethora of views and pending cases on the contract carriage rules. But we have to also understand that the technologies have evolved now and the rules were adopted decades ago. If we look at the letters, the government is right, but in spirit the companies are right | Amit Bhatt, urban mobility expert, World Resources Institute.

Commuters relieved to pool cabs to work

It was business as usual for UberPOOL and OlaShare drivers and users on Friday. That the services were available came as a huge relief to the thousands who use the app-based ride-sharing services to reach their workplaces every day.

The first thing Shamik Singha, a resident of Gottigere, did on Friday morning was open the Uber app, she was relieved that UberPOOL was available. “Why does the government finds every beneficial service unlawful? Why can’t they amend the outdated laws?” he asked.

Sudeep Banerjee, who lives in Koramangala, could also book OlaShare within minutes. “It is convenient but not cheap anymore as it used to be a couple of months ago. The fares have gone up. Though citizens don’t understand the nuances of the laws, the government must not do anything that troubles the citizens,” said Banerjee.

Some citizens, however, had to hover on the apps for a long time to share a ride in a cab and reach their workplaces. Krupa Rao, a resident of Koramangala, had to wait for over an hour to share a ride through UberPOOL. “I don’t have the Ola app so I had to book a single cab for office. I first thought that the ban is in effect but my friends from other places got to share rides,” she said.

I had to start early in the day and it was a nightmare for me to get a transport. The crackdown by the department on the cabs in my area ensured I did not get one. Autorickshaw drivers cashed in on the situation. I had no choice but to pay up more to reach office | Neha Rao

I had to go for a client meeting in the morning and feared if I would get an UberPOOL. I got a cab but had to cancel it because I was in hurry. On my way back I took OlaShare | Amanth Dev

Luckily it was a usual day for me. I got a ride in OlaShare in the morning and UberPOOL on way home. I have failed to understand why the government made us panic | Sharmila Karmakar

Ola-TaxiForSure-Uber Drivers’ and Owners’ Union launched a petition ‘Say no to OlaShare and UberPOOL’ on Friday. A poll, mostly among drivers, was conducted and by afternoon 412 cab drivers and owners had signed the petition. The petition asked commuters not to opt for cab sharing because it often delays them, is not safe for women and the driver families are facing acute financial crisis because of low fares charged by the companies.

Uber’s online petition BLENEEDS POOL, meanwhile, had over 20,000 supporters signing it and was being shared on various social media platforms besides WhatsApp.

Ola also started popping notification to its users seeking support for OlaShare. A clicking on the icon ‘Support’ takes users to its blog on ‘Bengaluru, Do your share to support ride sharing!’ It received over 6,000 votes online. It also started a Twitter campaign #BLRDoYourShare. The company shared the benefits of OlaShare claiming that the service had saved 132.73 lakh km run, 11.06 lakh litres of fuel and 1,871 tonnes of carbon emissions in Bengaluru in 2016 alone.