Amid fears of a mutated coronavirus strain in the UK, Karnataka has joined Maharashtra in imposing a night curfew — between 10 pm to 6 am — from December 24, 2020, to January 2, 2021. However, cab unions in the state have opposed the imposition of night curfew, claiming that the time between Christmas and New Year could have seen their daily earnings rise substantially.
The Karnataka government has issued guidelines stating that the movement of taxis and auto-rickshaws would be allowed only for picking up and dropping passengers from transit points like bus stations, train stations and airports. Further, passengers would have to display valid tickets to move freely past the curfew timings. Unlike Karnataka, the curfew in Maharashtra places no bar on the movement of taxis, auto-rickshaws and cars.
Cab drivers unions in the southern state have argued that the night curfew would further hurt their income in a year that has been bad for aggregators and their driver-partners. The countrywide lockdown due to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic from late-March till June and work-from-home protocols meant that there was minimal demand for taxis run by Ola and Uber.
It is worth noting that cab services haven’t been barred from operating altogether. However, their use has only been allowed between transit points as mentioned above, which could act as a deterrent for customers who would have otherwise chosen to step out after office hours for leisure or celebrations.
Tanveer Pasha, head of the Ola, Taxiforsure and Uber Drivers and Owners Association said drivers are opposed to the night curfew for the reasons mentioned above.
The last few months have seen drivers working with cab aggregators Ola and Uber protest against a fall in wages and the commission charged by these companies on the fare for each ride.
On November 27, the road transport ministry issued Motor Vehicle Aggregator Guidelines – 2020, to provide a framework to the state governments and union territories for the issuance of licenses as well as regulating the business conducted by such aggregators, including Ola and Uber.
The guidelines maintained that drivers would receive at least 80% of the total fare for each ride.
However, cab drivers’ associations weren’t satisfied with this provision. Shaik Salauddin, the national-general secretary of the Indian Federation of App-Based Transport Workers (IFAT), told Inc42 that by setting aside at least 80% of the ride fare for drivers, the new guidelines have worked in favour of cab aggregators, who’ve always been levying a 20% commission for each ride from cab drivers.
Earlier this week, IFAT, along with other labour unions as well as civil society organisations, made a joint submission to the Ministry of Labour and Employment over the ongoing public consultation on the Draft Code on Social Security (Central) Rules, 2020.
IFAT’s submission, dated December 21, consisted of several demands, the chief being that all platform workers should have a basic social protection floor that will be irrespective of their age.
The submission, which has also been signed by other labour unions such as the All India Gig Workers Union and Hind Mazdoor Sabha and a host of civil society organisations, also asks for more clarity on the nature of social protection offered to workers who are associated with different cab aggregators simultaneously.