The commuting woes of commuters may increase from Monday with cab drivers threatening to step-up their agitation and auto-drivers planning to launch a similar strike against mobile-based cab aggregators.
Hundreds of cab drivers on Friday staged a protest against cab aggregators Ola and Uber at Jantar Mantar and threatened a bigger strike from Monday if their demands were not met.
The drivers demanded that fares for rides be increased from the existing Rs 6 per kilometer, which is far lower than Rs 16 per km (for air-conditioned cabs)—the minimum fare prescribed by the Delhi government for radio taxis.
Data available with the Delhi transport department showed that the city had around 45,000 registered cabs, with officials estimating that the number of cabs plying on roads to be anywhere between 1 and 1.5 lakh.
“Our fares are lesser than auto rickshaws which charge Rs 8 per km. We also have to pay 25% commission to the company. We are left with only around Rs 5,000 after that. Monday is going to be the biggest strike ever by cab drivers where no commercial taxi would be allowed to ply,” said Kamaljeet Gill, president of the cab drivers association, while sitting on an indefinite hunger strike.
Friday’s protest, led to shortage of cabs in the city due to which cab aggregators enforced surge pricing for every ride. “First, I did not get any cab for 5 minutes which is unusual. When I finally got one, the fare was 12 times the normal,” said Rachita, who had to take a cab from Lajpat Nagar to Noida.
The protest found support from a section of auto rickshaw unions too. “We won’t ply our autos on Monday in support of the cab drivers. Action must be taken against Ola and Uber,” said Sanjay Chawla, president, Delhi Adarsh Auto Chalak Sangh. However, Rajendra Soni, of Auto Rickshaw Sangh, said their faction won’t support the strike.
Sharif Ahmed, a driver with Uber said that initially a lot of incentives were given to lure them. But the bonuses have reduced. “Uber has stopped incentives for 80% of its drivers in the past two weeks. Earlier, we used to get Rs 1,000 per extra trip as incentive which later came down to Rs 275. The incentive has been stopped completely now,” he said.
Two leaders from an association of cab drivers, Sarvodaya Driver Association of Delhi, also sat on a hunger strike on Friday in protest. Drivers claim that the meagre fares make it difficult for them to even pay the installments on their car loans. Working hours is another issue raised by them.
“They (Ola/Uber) have given us such big targets that we have to work 24 hours almost,” said Hira Singh, who has been driving for Uber for two years.
While Ola refused to comment on the strike, Uber issued a statement saying the strike was an isolated incident. “A small group of people are disrupting the Uber service in parts of Delhi, and there have been isolated reports of threats and intimidation. We are working hard to ensure reliable rides are available for everyone and we can keep the city moving,” an Uber spokesperson said.