In a desperate measure to show their strength, the taxi union of the Nitesh Rane-led Swabhimaan Sanghatana went on strike yesterday. Although there were many black-and-yellow taxis plying on the road in the morning, the number kept dwindling as the day progressed.
Commuters wait for taxis near Nair Hospital in Mumbai Central
“We don’t want cabs of services like Uber, Ola and other app-based aggregators to ply on the roads as it affects taxi drivers. We will also oppose the proposed law, which plans to include them legally,” said K K Tiwari, union leader for Swabhimaan Sanghatana. The union members claimed that they had managed to prevent all black-and-yellow taxis from plying on the road by 5 pm.
Sources in the RTO said that commuters at most of the railway stations, especially where long distance-trains arrive, were badly hit by the strike. These included CST, Mumbai Central, Kurla LTT and Dadar, among others. The Swabhimaan Sanghatana claims it has 18,000 auto rickshaw owners and 12,000 taxi owners as its members.
While the largest union of taxi owners in the city, led by A L Quadros, did not participate in the strike, it could not stop its members from staying off the road. “The members and goons of Swabhimaan Sanghatana threatened our drivers and also damaged our taxis in areas like Wadala, Worli, Kurla and Mumbai Central,” said Quadros. Thus, the drivers didn’t ply their vehicles out of fear.
Taxi users across the city were inconvenienced and the share-taxi and prepaid stands outside most railway stations were also not working as taxis remained off road.
The state Transport department has framed a draft law for these app-based aggregators, whose very existence was in danger after the Delhi rape case in December 2014. The draft of the Maharashtra Mechanically Propelled Vehicles and Road Safety Act 2015 now includes these aggregators. The department has also come up with a precise definition of these aggregators as an operator who acts as a digital intermediary for a passenger to connect with a driver, by means of mobile phone and web application or through a call centre or by any other advanced technology, of a tourist, luxury, black-and-yellow, cool cab taxi having a valid permit granted under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 or other rules made under by the State government or the Centre. Sources said that once the bill is passed, Maharashtra would be the first state to get a motor vehicles Act for itself.
'Only a few taxis off roads'
Gautam Chatterjee, State Additional Chief Secretary (Transport)
Q. The black-and-yellow cabbies went on strike today, which caused a lot of problems for Mumbaikars.
A. There was no strike and only a few taxis were off the roads.
Q. But most of the taxis outside railway stations were not plying. What action will be taken?
A. As I said, there was hardly any impact and so there is no question of taking action.
Q. Mobile app-based aggregators like Uber were overcharging people by 3-5 times. Any plan of action?
A. Currently, these mobile app-based aggregators are not regulated, and, so, we don’t have control over them.
Q. So will they continue to overcharge people like this?
A. We are working on the draft Transport Act, 2015 where these aggregators have been included. Once it gets passed, we will get legal mandate over them.
Abdul Ahad, engineer
I need to take a cab till Saat Rasta and I was not aware of the strike. I will now have to take a lift from my co-workers to get to office.
Abhishek Dhoot, doctor at Nair Hospital
I have been waiting for the past 15 minutes for a taxi. The rains are just adding to the troubles. I have decided to take a bus to Grant Road.
Yashwant Dani, BMC contractor
We have been waiting for quite some time. Very few taxis can be seen on the road. Now we will take a bus to Worli Naka.
Simeen Choughle, housewife from Mumbai Central
The strike is causing a lot of inconvenience. I have no other option but to walk to Byculla because of the strike today.
We are doing what the union told us to do. I guess the main reason behind it is the licence renewal problem.
We were not aware about the taxi strike and came to know about it in the morning. There are many reasons for the strike, including that the RTO takes nearly six months to a year just to renew our licences. Besides, from Bandra we don’t get many passengers as tourists. Taxis ferry passengers at a very low fare.
This strike is due to many reasons like licence renewal problems, gas price hike and also the meter issue.
- Inputs by Soni Pal and Delaveen Cherag Tarapore