As protests against app-based cab aggregators completed one week, Ola and Uber drivers whose daily income has taken a hit have resorted to plying their vehicles independently on Friday.
Several drivers said they were being stopped by protesters -- their fellow drivers -- across the NCR and coerced into joining the strike. Protesters damaged their vehicles if they failed to comply.
Hence, to earn an income, drivers are plying their vehicles at odd hours on routes where there are no protests.
Naresh Sharma was driving cars leased from Ola for the last three years. On lean days, his daily income was negligible and created financial insecurity. Consequently, Nareash bought a Maruti Suzuki Celerio six months ago and now, pays a monthly instalment of Rs 12,000.
“An ambitious gamble” Naresh recalls as the instalment ate into his profits. He purchased the car with a long-term plan of greater profits.
“While driving Ola-owned cars, I had to wait for my turn along with other drivers and ply the vehicle on designated routes. To reduce the competition and increase my earnings, I purchased a vehicle so that I could ply on routes that have a high customer frequency,” Naresh said.
However, the recent decision of cab aggregators to give booking preference to their cars over cars owned by independent drivers led to lower returns than Naresh’s calculation.
Naresh supports the protest by the cab drivers associations and went to Jantar Mantar in New Delhi -- the centre of the strike -- twice.
Naresh, however, admits that with no earnings, his family’s expenses cannot be met.
“Due to my close ties with some of the protesters, I am aware of the routes they won’t be monitoring. Hence, I ply my vehicle on Sohna Road and towards Manesar. My decision to do this has questioned my conscience but I have to accept that the strike is turning out to be futile and my family’s well-being is at stake,” Naresh said.
For Mohinder Saini, a cab driver attached to Uber, the protest is a pointless exercise that has gained prominence because of political leaders lending their support. Though he narrowly escaped an attack by protesters near Sector 29 last week , Mohinder remains undeterred and plies his cab.
Saini has opted to change his working hours from the day to night as protestors “do not venture out in the dark”. He has also stopped using Uber’s navigation or smartphone and works independently.
“Last week, protesters were stopping cabs ahead of me and damaging vehicles. Fortunately, I was able to spot the same from a distance and changed my route. After getting low customer response in the consequent days, I decided to turn to night duty hoping there will be lower protester presence on the roads,” Saini said.