After going through an hour-long training about the digital payment at the ‘Digi Dhan Mela’ on Tuesday arranged by the Maharashtra government, several taxi and auto rickshaw drivers seemed keen on switching to the same, though they expressed few apprehensions.
Around 400-500 taxi and auto rickshaw drivers from the city and the suburbs participated in the mela, at the Mumbai University campus at Fort. During the training, they were given information about payment through BHIM app, non-smartphone based payments, Aadhar-linked accounts and other options.
Mumbai has around 1.5 lakh conventional taxis and auto rickshaws. Unlike their competitors, app-based taxis like Ola and Uber, they conduct most of their transactions by liquid cash, causing inconvenience to passengers and themselves as well. Their business had gone down by 40-50% immediately after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced his move to demonetise old currency of Rs500, Rs1,000 on November 8, 2016, sources said.
“Switching to cashless payments is in the interest of the cabbies and auto drivers, besides passengers. It will give them relief from worrying about loose change. Considering the current situation of taxi and auto rickshaw business in the city, sooner or later, they will have to adopt the digital payment system,” said a senior RTO official.
The taxi and auto drivers are willing to use cashless payments as they have other advantages. “Our savings will go up. Now, we receive fare in cash, which will easily get spent here and there. But with cashless payment, the fare will be directly deposited in the banks. It will automatically lead to more savings for us,” said Yogesh Karale, 32, a rickshaw driver from Vikhroli.
The drivers said that they liked the system and found it easy too. But, they might need more training before adopting it. “Like Facebook and Whatsapp, slowly we will learn the mobile payment system,” said Pandurang Naykodi, 46, a rickshaw driver from Ghatkopar.
Premsingh, a veteran leader of Mumbai Taxi Association, said that they do not have a problem in using the digital payment system as long as they do not have to pay any service charge. “If the digital payment system is free or without any service charge, we do not have any problem in it,” said Premsingh.
The drivers also raised some apprehensions like mobile network problems, habits of passengers and other things. “Most of the time, passengers are in so much rush that they alight before the vehicle stops. Will they wait for completing such a long online payment procedure,” questioned a cabbie.
Many drivers complained that they did not understand the procedure properly due to language of training. “The entire training was in Marathi language, so I could not understand it properly. Only thing I learnt is that the app works like PayTM,” said Govind Yadav, 40, a taxi driver from Andheri.