Thousands of drivers working with app-based cab aggregators Ola and Uber in Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad said they will join the ongoing strike called by their colleagues in Delhi and the National Capital Region on Tuesday.
The cab drivers in the national capital are protesting against slashed incentives, increased commission rates, declining number of rides, long working hours and decreased earnings among other issues.
Drivers have also complained about the increase in the number of Ola and Uber cabs over the years, reducing their ride share. In 2014, Delhi transport department officials claimed that there were 30,000 vehicles officially registered as Ola or Uber cabs but unofficially this figure ran closer to 70,000 cars.
This has increased to almost one to 1.5 lakh cars with around 45,000 registered cabs today, according to the officials.
As these cabs went off the road in the Capital, Metro trains and buses were choked and auto-rickshaws were hard to find especially during rush hour on Monday.
An Ola official told Hindustan Times that the situation in the Capital was grave.
“Cabs are simply not available. We are monitoring the situation and will see what can be done. There are no plans yet to reach out to the drivers as a lot of their demands have already been heard which include insurance and all,” the official said.
At Jantar Mantar, where the two leaders of Ola Uber union from Delhi-NCR are on a hunger strike, a number of cab drivers joined the sit-in protest on the fourth day on Monday.
Ravi Rathore, vice-president of the Delhi-NCR cab drivers’ union, expressed his anger over the apathy of the companies as well as the government.
“Nobody has reached out to us yet. We won’t give up. It’s good news that drivers in other states are protesting too,” Rathore said.
Over 25,000 cab drivers in Hyderabad are planning to revive their agitation in protest against what they say is the stubborn attitude of Ola and Uber in resolving their demands.
The immediate provocation for the agitation was the death of an Uber cab driver M Praveen Kumar on Sunday night. He allegedly consumed poison on Saturday as he was unable to pay the monthly instalment of the loan he had taken from banks and died at Gandhi Hospital in Secunderabad.
Telangana State Cabs and Bus Operators Association (TSCBOA) president Syed Nizamuddin said Praveen, who hailed from Rasoolpura area in Secunderabad, joined Uber a few months ago after buying a Tata Indica car on loan from a private bank and was paying an equated monthly instalment (EMI) of Rs 27,000.
“For the last three months, he had not been able to pay the EMIs, as his income had drastically come down. He was not able to earn even Rs 20-25,000 per month,” Nizamuddin told Hindustan Times.
Praveen was allegedly given the impression by the Uber management that he would be able to earn around Rs 1 lakh per month, he added.
“Agents from the financial institution started calling him up and bringing pressure on him to repay the loan instalments lest his cab would be seized. Unable to bear this pressure, he committed suicide,” the association leader said.
He said the cab drivers would take a decision on the date of reviving their agitation soon after Praveen’s funeral on Monday. The cab drivers launched a massive agitation in December last year and went on for a five-day hunger strike. They were forced to put off their agitation following the intervention of the court.
Nizamuddin said drivers, who joined Uber and Ola, purchased new vehicles by taking huge loans from banks and private institutions on high-interest rates. They were all poor and belong to socially and economically backward groups.
They took the risk on the assurance that they would be given sufficient business and opportunity to earn a decent living. But now thousands of drivers have been complaining that the promises made to them were not being honoured, he said.
He said Uber and Ola have increased the number of vehicles but the customer base remains the same. This has been eating into the profits of taxi drivers, who have bought cars on EMIs and are struggling to repay the money, he said.
Nizamuddin said that the drivers have been asking the Uber and Ola managements to honour the promises that they made to them but there is no response.
Tanveer Pasha, the coordinator of the Ola-TaxiForSure-Uber Owners’ and Drivers’ Association, said his counterparts from Delhi got in touch with him and sounded him out on the possibility of drivers from Bengaluru going to the Capital to protest.
Drivers in the city have been protesting for over three months now. As HT had reported earlier, they were forced to unionise as incentives reduced and many who bought new cabs could not pay instalments on their loans.
“I have been busy organising here. So, I told the drivers in Delhi to wait and see what happens here before escalating matters,” Pasha said.
“Tomorrow (Tuesday) we are going to conduct a coordinated protest, where drivers from Chennai and Hyderabad will also go off roads. We have also got in touch with autorickshaw drivers, who will also be off roads tomorrow,” Pasha added.
Tamal Arasan, secretary of the Chennai taxi association, confirmed that drivers will participate in the strike on Tuesday
Like Bengaluru’s Pasha, he also said his counterparts in Delhi had asked him about the possibility of drivers from the Tamil Nadu state capital going to Delhi to protest.
He, however, said that drivers would not be able to strike for long given their financial situation. “Drivers need their fares to survive and pay their bills,” Arasan said. “Going beyond one day for a strike will be difficult to manage.”
Last year, Ola drivers staged protests complaining about the stiff penalties and lack of incentives.