THE state government has finally launched Goa’s first mobile app-based taxi service ‘GOAMILES’, which initially has a fleet of around 3,000 taxis. It will go a long way in providing better service to lakhs of people, both locals and tourists, at reasonable rates. It will end the age of unfair fare of taxi operators. Taxi operators held the commuters and government to ransom and paralysed traffic in the past to oppose any app-based service. The government must be complimented for ignoring their aggressive resistance and launching the app-based service. Such a service was long overdue in Goa, which attracts tourists in a number more than four times its population. The state has witnessed a taxi boom. Although tourists would enjoy their stay in Goa, there were complaints from them about having been fleeced by taxi operators. Past efforts to make taxi operators see reason did not yield any result. The launch of app-based taxi service would surely undo the damage that the taxi operators have done to the image of the state.
As is the case with any newly launched service, both the taxi operators who have registered with the government and the government agency overseeing it are encountering problems, which could take some time to resolve before the services are streamlined. According to the state authorities, there were awareness and certain technical issues involved in streamlining the services. Most of the owners or drivers of the vehicles registered had not grasped the basic operating principles; nor were they technology savvy to quickly handle app-based service operation. They would take some time to overcome the handicaps they face. Monsoon being a lean tourist season, the government expects to use the period to overcome the teething problems. The government has deliberately chosen the lean period to launch the service so that the operators and drivers can get enough time to be at home with the app-based operation and be ready to go full throttle when the tourist season picks up in October. The authorities are hopeful that the taxi operators who have been opposing the app-based service would fall in line and join the government-backed service, which is in the interest of both the taxi operators as well as passengers.
Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar’s assurance that the newly launched service has potential to multiply the income of taxi operators 2-3 times is not over-optimistic. The taxi operators would not have to scout for passengers; they would be directed to pick up new clients as they drop their passengers, which would be a win-win situation for them as they would not have to pay for anything as the charges would be levied on customers. Besides, there being no scope for manipulation of the rentals and cheating of customers, the service would become the preferred mode of transport for people. Within just a day more than 12,500 people have downloaded the app. According to Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) officials, the demand for service is huge and that the service providers have not been able to cater to the demand. Seeing the huge response from general public to the service, the authorities have announced their plans to launch the service throughout the state, so the taxis would pick up passengers in 10-15 minutes at almost all the places in the next few months.
The public response to the service is encouraging to the government. However, the government will have to be on guard to make sure the opposing taxi operators do not play spoilsport. They should not succeed in bullying the taxi operators who have joined the service. They created scene at the airport on the day of launch and even assaulted the driver of an app-based taxi. Intimidating tactics paid rich dividends to the taxi unions in the past, and they appear to be using similar tactics to browbeat the government and taxi owners who have opted for the new service. The government should not give into their antics and go ahead with expanding the operations of the app-based taxi services all over the state. The opposing taxi operators need to be assured that the app-based service would not eat into their business but would rather help them in earning more. In view of the fact that most taxi operators and drivers do not have adequate education to grasp technology-based operations quickly, the government would have to patiently help them overcome their problems and get used to technology. The taxi drivers should also be taught good behavioural practices so as to make the services vibrant and attractive to cater to locals and tourists alike.