The state government has decided to implement the Bombay High Court directive making installation of digital fare meters mandatory for all taxis. The government needs to ensure that Goans as well as tourists get good modes of transport at affordable rates. There is a growing demand for lifting moratorium on rent-a-car approvals. The transport department proposes to undertake an ‘impact assessment’ on the road infrastructure by the existing vehicles to decide on lifting the moratorium on rent-a-car scheme. Ever since the rent-a-car and rent-a-bike concept was introduced in the state, the number of cars and bikes offering taxi-like services has grown from zero to more than 30,000, outnumbering tourist taxis by 10,000. With the number of registered vehicles in the state nearing 13 lakh and still increasing – and tourism bringing thousands of vehicles from other states – it is necessary that a proper study is conducted to assess the impact of number of vehicles on the infrastructure, congestion and air and sound pollution and palliative and preventive measures taken before it is too late.
The state government has been dilly-dallying on installation of digital meters in taxis for ages. Now that it has given commitment to the High Court it should take immediate steps to identify suppliers of ISO standard meters and force taxis to fix it. The government is going to bear 90 per cent of the cost of the digital meters, so taxi operators should not have any issue about getting them installed to conduct a fair business. Despite the government’s benevolence in meeting almost the entire cost there are some voices against the move to install meters. There are other sections among taxi operators that want upward revision of fares on the plea that installation of meters would adversely affect their earnings at the current rates. The demand for increase in fare is despite the fact that taxi fares in Goa are among the highest in the country. The prevalence of combined up-and-down charges from one point to another is arbitrary and raises the fare almost to double. Goa is perhaps the only state where government has failed to get taxis to install meters. Though Goa is among highly developed states, it has been lagging behind as far as public transport is concerned. Whereas other states have allowed operation of radio- or app-based taxis in tune with the global system, Goa has allowed them no entry as politicians have played servile to the taxi operators who dictate terms. It is time the state government overrides local MLAs’ vested interests in public interest and allows radio- or app-based taxis, forcing local taxi owners to join them.
According to transport department officials, the explosive growth in the numbers of rent-a-car and rent-a-bike vehicles is likely contributing to traffic congestions and violations. A number of tourists who rent a car or bike do not follow traffic rules, signs or speed limits and enter ‘no entry zones’ or drive in the opposite direction on one-ways. Several tourists come and travel in groups, slowing down or blocking traffic movement as they ride bikes side by side. Though the owners of the vehicles who rent them out are supposed to ensure that the drivers and riders have valid licences, there is little evidence to suggest they do any check. Persons hiring bikes or cars park their vehicles where they should not, causing traffic snarls. Only a few get challans for various offences; most get away. Given their huge numbers it has not been possible for the police to keep a check on all those who take vehicles on hire. Lifting the moratorium on the rent-a-car scheme has therefore to be done with considerable thought, as that could lead to addition of hundreds of vehicles as many Goan entrepreneurs are waiting for it.
The transport department should introduce strict conditions on the operation of rent-a-car vehicles in case the moratorium is lifted. It is good that the department proposes to make installation of global positioning system (GPS) tracker mandatory in the rent-a-car vehicles, which will help it check the GPS details of every car once a week or month and issue e-challans for any violations of traffic and parking rules. It is time the department compels taxi operators and those renting out cars or bikes to help them establish a regime of fair business, affordable fares and legal compliance. The regime can be facilitated with use of high tech devices by the transport department for which the government should provide it adequate funds without delay.