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A four-member panel, appointed by the Maharashtra government to determine optimal fare structures for taxis, autos and cab aggregators such as Ola and Uber, has called for the introduction of “happy hours”.

As per the committee’s recommendation, between 12 pm and 4 pm every day, autos and ‘Kaali Peeli’ taxis will be allowed to offer rides at discounted rates. The report has already been uploaded on the transport commissioner’s website.

The latest report submitted by the Khatua committee also includes the outline of a telescopic fare structure with the limits of the Mumbai metropolitan region (MMR). The new recommendations, if unstated, could help reduce tariffs of rides beyond 8 km in autorickshaws and ‘Kaali Peelis’ plying across the city.

The report further stated, “There will be regular rates up to 8 km and reduction in 15% in the basic fare from distance of 8.1 km to 12 km and reduction of 20% for distances beyond 12 km.”

In case of ride-hailing services like Ola and Uber, the Khatua committee has proposed floor pricing and ceiling pricing ranging between $0.2 (INR 14) and $0.58 (INR 38).

As per the new fare structure, basic cab models can levy rates anywhere between $0.2 (INR 14) and $0.4 (INR 26). Mid-sized cars, on the other hand, will be allowed to charge $0.24 (INR 16) to $0.49 (INR 32). Premium cars can have rates ranging from $0.24 (INR 16) to $0.58 (INR 38).

According to former IAS officer B.C. Khatua, who is currently presiding over the panel, the introduction of happy hour discounts is intended to attract more commuters availing autorickshaws and taxis in Mumbai.

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Between 12 pm and 4 pm, the proposal states, taxis and autos could offer discounted rates of up to 15% beyond the first 1.5 km.

The committee added, “This new concept will turn lean hours to happy hours, especially for housewives and senior citizens who don’t have fixed time schedule for their outings. This will fetch more ridership to the taxi and autorickshaw drivers during the lean period. This will also create new travel pattern during the happy hours.”

The panel has also proposed a common uniform for all drivers of cab aggregators: blue shirt with tie, black trousers and black shoes.

Tasked with reviewing the taxi and autorickshaw fare fixation formula derived by single-member Hakim Panel in 2012, the Khatua committee was originally asked to submit its report by the deadline of July 31.

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The state government also entrusted the committee with the task of fixing upper and lower limit fares of app-based taxis of the aggregators, in accordance with the newly-announced Maharashtra City Taxi Rules 2017.

The recommendations are aimed at eliminating instances of “exploitative pricing” that cab aggregators often resort to as a way of attracting more customers.

The report has also lowered the entry requirements for cab aggregators by removing limits on engine capacity as well as diesel variants. As per the recommendations, drivers will now have to pay lower permit fees. On the other hand, it has also raised the security deposit that aggregators need to pay.

The development comes months after the Competition Commission of India (CCI) dismissed allegations of predatory pricing against major cab aggregators like Ola and Uber. In 2015 and 2016, Bengaluru-based taxi operators Fast Track Call Cab and Meru Travel Solutions had approached the CCI. They had alleged that Ola had abused its ‘dominant position’ in the market. It was offering heavy discounts to passengers and incentives to cab drivers in the city.

The latest recommendations by the Khatua committee are geared towards creating a level playing field for autos and taxis by putting a cap on surge pricing and discounts offered by cab aggregators. The introduction of happy hours could help expand the customer base of autorickshaws and ‘Kaali Peelis’ in Mumbai.

(The development was reported by ET)

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