The ongoing strike by Ola-Uber cab drivers is a lost opportunity for the Delhi government, which did not step up measures to promote public transport during the period, feel experts.
Ola-Uber drivers are striking for the past six days, demanding better incentives and benefits from the app-based cab aggregators.
Experts said that the strike period was a perfect time during which the government could have stepped up and proven to the people that commuting through public transport was not as difficult as it was made out to be. The Delhi government had been mulling measures to wean people away from private vehicles in Delhi both to curb pollution and congestion.
“At a time when most of the 1.5 lakh cabs plying in Delhi-NCR are off roads, the government should have strengthened bus services and ensured effective last mile connectivity by encouraging auto rickshaws and e-rickshaws,” said professor PK Sarkar, head of the department of transport planning at the School of Planning and Architecture.
The Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) said it has directed all depot managers to run extra buses, but failed to provide the numbers. “Number of bus trips have been increased,” a DTC spokesperson said.
Dr S Velmurugan, principal scientist, CRRI, said if not increasing the number of buses on the ground, the government could have ran campaign to encourage people to use public transport. “They should have followed the same drill as they did during the two phases of odd-even car rationing scheme last year. Buses are running below capacity and its declining ridership over the past five years is a worrying trend. This strike was a chance to run campaigns on radio, billboards and other media,” he said.
Auto-rickshaws seems to be benefitting the most out of the strike. But in most cases, auto drivers were reportedly fleecing commuters and refuse to ply by the meter fare. “I paid Rs 270 for an auto ride from New Delhi railway station to CR Park. The usual meter fare is Rs 120 or Rs 150 otherwise. When I tried bargaining, they sarcastically asked me to book an Ola instead,” said Junhai Jaiswal, who arrived in the capital earlier this week.
Another commuter, Rinky Yadav, complained auto drivers refused to go to Nangloi citing it was in Outer Delhi. “The government should have issued a warning to auto drivers to not take advantage of the situation,” she said.
Experts too corroborated with the view. “It only takes a meeting with the unions of auto rickshaw and e-rickshaw drivers. They should have been given the confidence of doing brisk business during the cab shortage, but at the same time warned of not flouting the rules,” said Nalin Sinha, transport and traffic consultant.
The government should have coordinated with the traffic police to crackdown on errant auto drivers, he said.