Outside railway stations, on the streets and in business districts, stranded office-goers was a common sight throughout Tuesday, with many black-and-yellow taxis going off the Mumbai roads protesting against app-based taxi aggregators such as Uber and Ola.
The call for agitation came from the Swabhiman Rickshaw Taxi Union, led by Congress MLA Nitesh Rane. The union is demanding a ban on the app-based taxi services, which they said were not only illegal, but also ate into the livelihood of traditional taxi drivers.
Commuters waited in long bus queues or walked to their destination as a result. “I usually take a taxi to Dadar, but on Tuesday, I had to walk from Bhoiwada to Dadar station,” said Rohini Pawar, a Parel resident.
This could only be the beginning of troubles.
The union has threatened to intensify the agitation, getting autorickshaw drivers to also take part in strikes, if the government doesn’t act in a fortnight.
According to drivers and owners of taxis, the rise of app-based services is eating into their business. Many drivers claim these services are illegal, because there is no government regulation to allow such cabs.
“It was a demonstration and we are done with it today. We are in talks with the transport department,” Rane tweeted.
Sonia Sethi, the state transport commissioner, said, “We have already prepared a draft to bring regulate aggregators. This has been sent to the government, which has asked us to refine it. As the government is sensitive to taxi drivers’ demands, the unions should not disrupt services.”
Meanwhile, other taxi unions said they did not support the agitation, but stayed off the roads as they feared their vehicles will be attacked. “We are appealing in court to bring aggregators under a regulation, but holding commuters for ransom is not the solution. Many drivers did not ply fearing attacks,” said DS Salian, secretary, Mumbai Taxi Association.
An incident of vandalism was reported at the Kherwadi police station, but details of the cars or which company it belonged to was not registered.