App-based taxi booking services to be banned in Maharashtra

Acting on a Central government notification, the transport department intends to bar operators like Uber, Ola, TaxiForSure from the state, for operating without a licence; radio cab services like Meru, Tab Cabs, etc asked to submit safety plans by year-end

Mobile-app based booking services may soon be on their way out in Maharashtra. Acting on orders from the Central government, the state government is looking to ban app-based booking services such as Uber and Ola Cabs. The move comes after an Uber driver, Shiv Kumar Yadav, allegedly raped a passenger in Delhi.

Mobile app-based cab booking services like Uber, Ola, etc may find themselves banned in Maharashtra. Pic for representation/Getty Images
Mobile app-based cab booking services like Uber, Ola, etc may find themselves banned in Maharashtra. Pic for representation/Getty Images

“The Central government has sent us a notification to ban all mobile app-based taxi providers. I have forwarded it to the Transport Commi-ssioner’s office,” said S K Sharma, principal secretary (transport). The decision will be a setback for the likes of Uber, Ola Cabs, TaxiForSure and other such app-based cab-booking services

The crux
In 2010, the Transport department proposed to have a ‘call a taxi’ scheme, under which private operators were asked to come forth and setup call centres and mobile apps. There is only one such licensed operator in the state Bookmycab, which has around 3,000 black-and-yellow taxis under this scheme.

Meanwhile, the other aggregators Uber and its ilk have been operating as platforms. People can use it to book taxis, and the platform would connect them with the drivers, who would ply the passengers. Sources said that these mobile-app operators don’t fall under the gambit of the Motor Vehicles Act.

Yet, the Transport department did nothing to act against a service that was seemingly illegal, since they had no licences to operate. Neither did the companies apply for the permits, says an official.

The authorities have now woken up to the issue of citizen safety, and are collating data on number of drivers, taxis and other operational data from the radio taxi operators like Meru, Easy Cabs, Tab Cabs, etc. It must be noted that these drivers are issued permits by the Transport department.

“Private cab operators need to send detailed data before December 31, along with their plans to ensure passenger safety. They must start implementing it by January 15,” said Mahesh Zagade, transport commissioner.

Some of the safety suggestions include having an emergency button for passengers that would send a distress signal to the call centre of the operator. The authorities also want drivers not to have any control over the GPS system, so that it cannot be tampered with or switched off.

'Amend laws'
IT experts, on the other hand, are calling for a change in laws to incorporate these mobile app-based services before they are launched. “The Information Technology Act doesn’t include these mobile-based apps, and, so, it requires an amendment.

However, action can be taken if these service providers don’t discharge duties under the Act,” said Pawan Duggal, a cyber law expert and an advocate in the Supreme Court.

The Transport department is also looking at booking not only the driver, but also the directors and management of the private cab operators in future, should another such criminal case occur.

Cops collecting Cabbies’ details
Alarmed by the rape of a woman in Delhi allegedly by a cabbie working for Uber, Mumbai police have launched a drive collecting details of the drivers who ply black-and-yellow taxis in the island city, and of those working for private cab operators. Police are also checking antecedents of all drivers in the drive, which is likely to be completed by December 31.

“We have got the details from the regional RTOs about the drivers plying black-and-yellow taxis, but are yet to get details (of drivers) from 28 private operators,” Mumbai Police spokesperson and DCP Dhananjay Kulkarni told PTI. As per an estimate, a total of 2.46 lakh cabbies belong to both the categories and possess badges issued by regional transport offices.

Uber GM slapped
A member of a local taxi union allegedly slapped the general manager of Uber Cabs in Mumbai yesterday.

K K Tiwari, union leader (auto-taxi wing) of Swabhiman Sanghatana, allegedly slapped Shailesh Sawlani, general manager of Uber, when the latter was coming out of the office of the Transport Commissioner in Bandra.

However, no formal police complaint has been lodged in this regard. Swabhiman Sanghatana is led by Congress MLA Nitesh Rane, son of ex-CM Narayan Rane. - Agencies

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