Nearly two months after their strike hit private transport in the Capital, cab drivers are once again preparing to protest against poor payments and long working hours.
In February, the strike by Ola-Uber drivers against the cab aggregators impacted lakhs of commuters in the city for almost two weeks and ended with no real winners. The stalemate witnessed just a few small victories.
From Ola and Uber’s perspective, the strike showed them a city’s had become dependent on them for their commuting needs in a little more than three years.
For the “overworked and underpaid” drivers, the strike was a reaffirmation that their concerns were not ill founded.
In the end, none of the parties, however, could take much off table.
In simpler terms, Ola and Uber managed to show that they had the staying power to take on the drivers’ lobby and virtually managed to end the strike several days before it was actually called off.
On the other hand, the drivers, without whom the companies cannot function, were promised that the Rs 500 penalty for denial of duty won’t be imposed on them and that the existing fare of Rs 6 per kilometre would be increased.
This may have been far less than what they had demanded but it did show that the voices of the agitators had not gone completely unheard.
The drivers had also demanded that they be given incentives at par with what they were promised when the cab services were launched in the city, accident insurance and a relaxation in working hours. But the cab aggregators were having none of it.
Post a meeting called by the Delhi government to resolve the issue amicably between the two parties, the drivers got a written commitment where the companies said they would agree on two of their demands and sought time till Monday.
Despite the small steps taken by Ola and Uber to win back their drivers, it was expected that the protests will return in the capital soon. On the one hand, the strike made the companies more open to the drivers by reaching out to them and making them feel cared for, on the other, the companies failed to meet any of the major demands of the drivers.
In fact, after returning to its full fleet strength, Uber already has claimed that it never made any commitment towards fulfilling the demands of its drivers.
“We participated at a meeting convened by the Delhi government and reiterated that individual drivers can come to us at any time to raise concerns,” is all they said about the meeting that led the Sarvodaya Drivers Association of Delhi (SDAD) — the union that was leading the strike and claimed to be representing the 1.5 lakh drivers in Delhi-NCR — to call off the strike on Thursday.
For the government, the 13-day strike was a missed opportunity to showcase its public transport system. With nearly a lakh cabs off the roads in Delhi-NCR, the government could have bolstered its bus service and run campaigns to promote use of public transport and the Metro. The government did, however, rushed to launch 100 new buses in the city after almost a year of inactivity.
(This is an updated version of the story first published on February 26)