The Maharashtra government likely to introduce rules to put restrictions on surge pricing by app-based taxi aggregators like Ola and Uber to ensure a level playing field for all taxi operators. The proposal is likely to be cleared by the state cabinet sometime in next few days as taxi drivers have planned a strike from August 10.
According to sources, deliberations on the revised proposal submitted by the transport department are ongoing. The department has proposed to restrict the operation of app-based taxis during non-peak hours and restrict their upper surge limit to 1.5 times the air conditioned cool cab taxi fare, which is Rs 18.5 per kilometer.
The rules, to be introduced as City Taxi Scheme 2015 ,will be important for the centuries-old business of black and yellow taxis in Mumbai, as it will have a long-term effect on public transport. As app-based cabs have affected the business of traditional taxis badly, the government is under pressure to introduce rules putting restrictions on them.
A transport department official who did not wish to be identified, said the department has been asked to prepare a detailed presentation on the City Taxi Scheme 2015.
Currently, Mumbai’s taxis include black and yellow cabs, Cool Cab air-conditioned taxi services, and radio cab services such as Tabcab and Meru. The tariff of all these taxis is fixed by the transport authorities. In the past few months, app-based cabs like Uber and Ola have become popular due to their low rates during non-peak hours, easy availability and better quality AC vehicles.
The taxi unions contend that the app-based cabs are illegal, while traditional cabs follow all the rules laid down by the transport authorities. The unions want restrictions on surge pricing as that is where app-based cabs profit. As these cabs charge more during peak hours, the non-peak hour charges are much less.
Jai Bhagavan Mahasangh, a lesser known taxi union had threatened an indefinite strike but postponed it after chief minister Devendra Fadanvis’s intervention. It is now demanding that the new policy on cabs be introduced by August 10. The Mahasangh’s one-day strike in June received support from cabs all over Mumbai.
Transport minister Diwakar Raote cleared the proposal, which is now pending with the chief minister, according to sources. Raote raised concerns about the black and yellow taxis, suggesting that they should not feel the heat of the new policy. However, at the same time, the transport department doesn’t want to disrupt the app-based cabs entirely as they are popular among commuters.