Cab service aggregators Ola and Uber have faced yet another blow from local taxi unions, this time in Lonavala. Amidst regular fierce protests, the city authorities have asked the app-based cab services to stop their ‘outgoing services’ within the Lonavala Municipal Council limits in the city.

Ola and Uber can now bring in passengers from different cities to Lonavala, however, cannot pick the outstation passengers from the city itself. On one hand, this will certainly affect the ride economics for both the companies. On the other hand, with empty return taxis, the companies might be forced to completely stop their outstation cab services in the city.

Reportedly, Mahesh Kedari, President of the Maharashtra Vahatuk Sena’s Pune District unit and a resident of Baramati, said “Ola and Uber relented when local taxi operators exerted pressure by taking up the issue with the municipal body and the police. However, entry of Ola and Uber in the market means that local taxi operators will have to compete with those who come from Pune and Mumbai.”

He further added, “The city is mostly dependent on tourism, as there’s no other industry around. Outsiders eating into our share will also affect the career prospects of the younger generation. So, we opposed the operations of Ola and Uber and succeeded.”

Post this decision by the city authorities, various taxi unions also organised thanks giving rally wherein city Mayor Surekha Jadhav and Deputy Mayor Shridhar Poojari also participated.

An email sent to both Ola and Uber did not elicit any response till the time of publication.

Ola, Uber Cab Services: Handling Two Years Of The Fierce Battle With Taxi Unions And Others

The last two years have been riddled with bans, strikes, driver protests and legal encounters for both Ola and Uber. Be it in  Karnataka, Chennai, Delhi, Bengaluru, or Mumbai, drivers are constantly agitating and revolting against low incentives and stiff performance targets. Not to forget, the troubles created by state taxi associations in different parts of the country and how the drivers were jolted into creating a new app all by themselves.

In April 2017, Uber filed a suit against taxi owners and drivers associations in Mumbai seeking $1.9 Mn (INR 12.41 Cr) in damages for harming its reputation and the livelihood of drivers.

However, later, another series of issues sprung forth from the Indian government.

In July 2017, it was reported that the Delhi government may place a ban on ride-sharing services like Ola Share and UberPOOL, as part of its new City Taxi Policy. The government was also said to be planning to place a cap on the size of taxi fleet and the prices charged by the cab aggregators as well as other taxi associations active in the city.

Prior to that, in July 2016, the Delhi Autorickshaw Sangh and Delhi Pradesh Taxi Union called for an indefinite strike against app-based taxi services in Delhi. In August 2016, the Delhi High Court had issued a notice to Ola and Uber to stop surge pricing and follow government prescribed fares. And in September 2016, reports surfaced that the Indian Government is planning to establish a maximum limit on fares to monitor surge pricing by online cab aggregators like Uber and Ola.

Following that, in November 2016, the Karnataka High Court dismissed Uber’s request to scuttle the Karnataka On-demand Transportation Technology Aggregators Rule, 2016, while upholding the government’s rights, ruled in favour of the State Government. Later the same month, the drivers also started a 36-hour strike in Guwahati protesting against the revised incentives.

Till today, the state and government authorities have been engaged in creating a level playing field between the cab service providers and the local taxi unions. Recently, Mumbai-based Khatua Committee also proposed the provision of ‘Happy Hours’ for both Ola, Uber and other Auto andTaxiess. However, forcefully eliminating the competition completely, crying over the interests of the local taxi drivers, cannot be termed as the fair play. Also, on the consumer front too, they are now being forced to use the local taxis even if they are more comfortable and are willing to pay for any of the Ola or Uber cab services.

While Ola and Uber might suffer financially here, it is difficult to ascertain what impact this could have on the overall scenario of the cab aggregators and taxi unions tussle in the country. Things could become direr for the cab service providers if by any chance other states or cities started implementing the same strategy to safeguard the interests of their local taxi unions.

[The development was reported by Indian Express.]

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