Like the pre-Diwali days when the city was crippled with a standoff between the drivers’ association and ride-hailing companies Ola and Uber, Mumbaikars’ post festive season days too are going to be paralysed as the city’s biggest taxi union of Kali Peeli (black and yellow) cabs has alarmed to go on protest from November 15 if their fitness certificates are not renewed by the government.
The suffering of the city people doesn’t end here as the strike call off by the Ola and Uber drivers is temporary on the move till November 15. Even though the 13-day agitation was concluded on November 3 after a four-hour-long meeting between the representatives of the private cab drivers, the officials from the Transport Department, and Transport Minister Diwakar Raote, the drivers have forewarned to not be on the roads from November 15 if their demands of higher rates per km, fares based on fuel prices, and better incentives were not accepted.
Noyonika Banerjee, a student of SNDT College stated, “As the Ola and Uber cabs were on strike a few days ago, I’m sure it did get a little difficult for the ones who often travel by cabs but the cabs are important to a lot of people in the city who don’t have the habit of travelling by the local trains.”
The strike that started from October 22, took 22,000 cabs away from the roads. In view of Diwali which was just a few days away during the period, a large part of the city folk who depends on Ola-Uber services had to bear the brunt. The jump of fuel prices since the start of the year was indeed a pain for the countrymen while as per the drivers’ union, cab fares have seen not seen a single penny growth and on grounds of that, the drivers were struggling to meet their expenses even after working for longer hours.
Deepak Savle, a driver associated with one of the ride-hailing giants expressed, “The decision to call off the strike was taken to ease the communication of the Mumbaikars during the festive season. We are working for 14-16 hours a day and still unable to earn enough money to sustain. Political parties fool us with promises of support; they take bribes and leave us midway.”
“If we can think for the city people’s difficulties then why can’t they think of ours? A fixed monthly earning as well as other demands must be fulfilled as soon as possible!” he added.
Kali Peeli taxi drivers on the other hand, who earlier demanded to regulate online aggregators such as Ola and Uber, are now going to stop the services as the fitness certificates of about 5,000 taxis have expired and according to the union members and drivers, the renewal of the same has been delayed since the last two months due to a court order that has directed the transport department to conduct a test that includes testing of brakes at a minimum distance of 250 metres. They have also threatened to dump their vehicles in front of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s bungalow at Malabar Hill on November 15. According to the taxi drivers association, both the government and the transport department paid no heed to the order and harassed the drivers asking them to go to Vashi or Panvel for the job to be done.
On the condition of anonymity, a Kali Peeli taxi driver from Bandra said, “We want the fitness certificates soon but it will cost us a good amount to take our cabs from Mumbai to Vashi or Panvel. The process to provide us with the certificate there is ill-reputed with goons who bully us to shell out money.”
Interior designer Karishma Lama who works in Churchgate said, “After cabs strike was called off, I experienced an increase in the rates. If Ola and Uber go on strike, it would not be a big problem as there is an option of Kali Peeli taxis. But if they also go on strike simultaneously, it is obviously going to affect the Mumbaikars.”
She went on saying, “Even though we have alternatives such as trains and buses, those will also get crowded if cabs and taxis both go on strike together. However, to travel locally in South Mumbai areas, there will be no other option left as that area has no other alternative mode of transportation.”