Delhi High Court has declared the government’s rejection of Ola & TaxiForSure’s license applications as invalid, coming as a huge sigh of relief for the drivers as well as the consumers alike.
The ongoing saga around the Delhi Government vs Cab Aggregators has been a journey full of twists and turns. It almost feels like a plot from a RGV thriller – questionable incidents, controversies and conspiracies, it has it all.
Since December last year, there has been a lot of action & debate between the two sides. The government issued a ban against cab aggregators in Delhi and had asked them to seize their operations. However the cabbies refused to stop and continued operations despite of numerous warnings from the government.
This cat and mouse game took a new turn last week when the transport department took numerous steps to ensure that no cabbie would take bookings via Ola, Taxiforsure and Uber in the capital.
The Plan of Action
Most of the aggregators don’t have a physical office presence as these company follow an app route. It was quite difficult for the transport department to find out the operators that were working in Delhi despite numerous announcements being done by the government.
Alas! Traffic police officials were directed to download the official apps of Uber, Ola & TFS to make false bookings and entrap the cabs – the drivers were fined and their cars were impounded.
“Behind this mask there is more than just flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea… and ideas are bulletproof.” ― Alan Moore, V for Vendetta
Despite the numerous actions taken by the government, the fines, the impounding and the continuous harassment of the drivers, these cabs services continue to run.
The ongoing issue forced me to go out and see what was actually happening in the backend. How are these cabs still running? Why are we still able to book cabs? Why is the government operators? Who is lacking?
I spent the past week talking with Uber and Ola drivers.
After the latest wave of bans and fines, cab availability went for a toss. It was almost impossible to find a cab, took 15-20 attempts and well over 20-30 minutes to even book a cab. This was followed by multiple calls from the driver trying to strike up a conversation. It was only later that i learnt that they were doing this to figure out whether it was a genuine customer on the other end or a traffic cop out to get them.
Once the cab arrived, the driver tried to park it in low key areas so as to avoid drawing any attention to themselves. Just yesterday when i had booked a cab from a metro station, the driver went and parked behind a tree across the road.
Majority of the times when i booked a cab, the very first instruction given by the cab driver was “In case someone stops, please don’t tell them you are using xyz cabs, say you have booked from a private car rental service”.
On the other hand, if a traffic cop managed to catch one of them, their cab was seized and impounded. They were fined insane amounts without proper challans or receipts.
Apparently there was no fixed amount for the challans that were issued. Cops usually asked these drivers to pay anywhere between INR 10-25k. In most of the cases written challans/receipts of INR 2-5k were issued and rest of the amount was pocketed by the cops.
To get back their cabs, the drivers were further made to pay up at the impound lot. The misery for cab drivers didn’t end here.
According to the drivers i talked with, the cars that they managed to get back after all this had some major damages – missing tires, music system, oil and even the car battery & engine in extreme cases. The cab drivers were further threatened and forced to not report the issue.
The question then becomes why is this happening? Why is the Delhi Government after the likes of Ola and Uber? After the ban in January, these operators were cleared to operate in Delhi again as they had implemented the requested safety measures and tracking.
The most common answer that I got from my conversations with the drivers suggested that this might be a conspiracy against cab aggregators by the old incumbent players who are suffering major losses due to the new players.
As with most conspiracy stories, only time will tell what the reality is and who’s responsible for all the mess.