In order to regulate app-based taxi and other commercial transport services in the state, the transport department has decided to frame operational guidelines which every transport aggregator would have to follow. The guidelines, which are expected to come out by the end of this month, will cover safety standards, driver regulation, maximum fare pricing per km, fare calculation, ride sharing and fuel norms. A regulatory mechanism for commercial transport has been long overdue in a state that hosts millions of tourists every year. The mechanism will also help the locals who dread using taxis because of exorbitant rates charged by their owners. Taxi services in the state have gained notoriety for unfair fare. The government’s initiative to set up a regulatory mechanism, though belated, is welcome. Let us hope the government enforces the adherence to the guidelines among all commercial transport providers.
The number of taxis in the state has risen from a few hundred some decades ago to over 20,000. Taxi operators have managed to derive maximum benefits from the tourism sector without any regulations. They have resisted government proposals and pressures to make installation of fare meters as well as speed governors mandatory. They are in the habit of singing a sob story about their business not yielding much to them. They have been opposing app-based private taxi companies that have made travelling much easier in several cities of the country. They went on a strike to stop an app-based national taxi service provider coming to Goa. Again, they did it on the ground that as it is they are not able to ‘make their both ends meet’ with the kind of income they get the government would be doing ‘injustice’ to them by allowing app-based private taxi operators into the state. It is known that many of the taxi operators have more than one taxi and have hired drivers from other states to drive their vehicles. Despite the authorities knowing of the illegalities conducted by the taxi operators, no action has ever been taken against them.
The government has been promising to come out with its own app for taxi services. The date for the launch of the app has been changing. The last the public was told it would be rolled out by May-end. It is not certain how much longer the public has to wait for the government app. The app for government-supported taxi services was being developed by the Goa Electronics Limited (GEL). The GEL was believed to have developed the app. The transport and tourism departments should have been quicker in getting the government app for taxi services operating to regulate taxi services. As the government app has been delayed in launch, a private commercial transport aggregator, who is believed to have tied up with a national operator, has announced operation of app-based taxi services from August 15. It would have been better if the government too had started its app-based services. That would have given a healthy competition to private operators and given choice to the local taxi owners to join either government-app-based services or the private operator’s app-based services. Now that the private operator has announced the launch of app-based taxi services, the government must make it sure that the guidelines framed by it are followed by him.
There is a crying need for passenger-friendly taxi services in the state. The tourism sector has for long been demanding transparency and fair determination of fares in the taxi services operated in the state. Let us remember that the Goans who travel to other states and the tourists who come to Goa from other states have gained good experience of app-based taxi services. The best part of app-based services is that a taxi is available within a few minutes wherever you are. The waiting time may be longer in the odd hours, but even in night time you can call a taxi. The second good thing about it is the accountability of the taxi driver. As the identity of the driver is known to the service provider, the risk of him attacking the passenger or waylaying him is lesser, the cases of rape by drivers notwithstanding. The driver who assaulted or molested a female passenger was caught because his identity was known. In Himachal Pradesh last week a Japanese female tourist was raped by a taxi driver who was not part of an app-based service. The police had difficulty tracking him down in the absence of any identity and owing to the little familiarity of the victim with the roads he took her through to drive to an isolated spot.