Unknown cab union holds Mumbai to ransom

Jun 22, 2016, 08:28 IST | Shashank Rao

Ola and Uber made a killing through surge pricing; protest was started by Navi Mumbai-based auto-taxi union

The devil named surge pricing, introduced by the mobile aggregators, once again reared is ugly head yesterday after the members of a little known black-and-yellow taxi union from Navi Mumbai protested at Azad Maidan against mobile aggregators such as Ola and Uber.

An elderly couple trudges along with their heavy bags in search of a taxi outside Dadar station yesterday. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
An elderly couple trudges along with their heavy bags in search of a taxi outside Dadar station yesterday. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

The protest called by Jay Bhagwan Taxi-Rickshaw Driver Owner Mahasangh started around 10 am resulted in taxi drivers refusing fares across CST, Byculla, Dadar, and several other areas.

Moreover, the protest took a violent turn after the union members attacked tourist vehicles having mobile phones attached next to the steering wheel — assuming them to be cars working for the mobile aggregators — and even those belonging to the media.

“We had a simple gathering of taxi owners and drivers and it was not a protest. Our members neither intimidated anyone nor attacked anything. Those who did, are not a part of our organisation,” said union leader Bala Sanap, who headed the protest. The union has now threatened of an indefinite strike if the state government does not pass the City Taxi Scheme 2015 by July 26.

Making a killing
Soon after the cabbies started refusing fares, the demand for Ola and Uber increased and so did their fares. Commuters complained that under the garb of surge pricing, the fares trebled despite ample number of tourist cabs being spotted on the city streets. Even those opting for the carpooling option were miffed with the pricing, as it proved almost equivalent to that of hiring a cab individually.

“Those opting for carpooling paid R180 for the Dadar-CST route. But when I booked a cab individually, I paid R200,” said Neha Katdare, who found it impossible to hire a black-and-yellow taxi.

The only sliver lining for those hiring fleet cabs was that Ola and Uber implemented surge pricing at different intervals for different categories.

Official speak
Sources in the RTO said the Navi Mumbai-based union, which was supported by Nitesh Rane’s Swabhimaan Sanghatana, lacked requisite permission to hold the rally. “They did not give anything in writing to inform us about the protest. Many drivers just parked their vehicles and left. We will definitely take action in this matter, as it has affected a large number of citizens,” said Shyam Wardhane, transport commissioner.

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