A strike by Bengaluru cab drivers attached to app-based aggregators Ola and Uber entered the seventh consecutive day on Wednesday, even as members of a taxi drivers’ association launched an indefinite hunger strike to demand enhanced payment for their services.
Around a thousand members of the Ola, TaxiForSure, Uber Drivers’ Association gathered at the city’s Freedom Park to protest against the two companies earlier in the day. The movement has received political support from Janata Dal (Secular) chief HD Kumaraswamy.
Nagaraj S, a driver working for both Uber and Ola, said the companies should rationalise the fares for cab rides even if they didn’t want to pay incentives like before. “I get Rs 10 per km on some days, and Rs 4 per km on others. They should standardise the rate to ensure that we get a stable income,” he added.
The cab driver claimed that he was yet to pay the last two instalments on his car loan because earnings have been slim since December.
Premnath Shetty, another taxi driver, complained that his attempts to contact Ola and Uber went in vain. “They said they wouldn’t talk to me if I was part of the ongoing protest,” he said.
Fellow agitator Vijay Kumar found fault with the “unequal treatment” meted out to cab drivers vis-à-vis their customers. “They (the customers) tend to think that we are their servants, and take liberties in our cabs. There is no penalty if we give them a bad rating, but our duties depend on how they rate us,” he said indignantly.
Many drivers said the matter has escalated due to the companies’ refusal to respond to their demands, and the state government’s reluctance to intervene in the matter.
“This is a dispute between the drivers and the companies concerned. It is up to them to resolve the issue,” said transport commissioner MK Aiyappa said. The department has already met company officials thrice to push for an early resolution to the agitation, he added.
While Ola did not respond to queries, an Uber spokesperson said it was “willing to engage with the drivers individually”. However, the drivers remain wary of this approach, and have pinned their hopes on support from Kumaraswamy’s party.