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Establishing Discipline In Goa’s Taxi Business

THE failure of the state transport department authorities to act on applications for issue of all-India permits to taxi operators even after three months prompted members of the North Goa Tourist Taxi Association to gherao deputy director of transport M Pilarnkar on Tuesday in his office chamber. According to government notification an application for all-India permit is to be disposed off within three days. Pilarnkar said the file was sent to him only a day before. If it is true, the top officials must explain. There have been allegations of prevalence of corruption in the transport department, with no file moving without greasing of palms. Several transport officials were caught accepting bribes, but that had no deterrence.

Transport department officials have promised to find out the “flaws” leading to delay in action on the 57 applications for all-India permits by the taxi operators. The applicants claim that they have been paying the principal and interest through their noses for the loans they availed from banks for purchasing  vehicles, some of which are high-end models, with no business having been done by them for want of permits. The authorities need to conduct a thorough probe in the matter as the taxi operators have suffered for no fault of theirs for a long time. The officers responsible for causing unwarranted delay in providing service despite the taxi operators satisfying all the norms, like purchase of a new vehicle for obtaining permit and other central government norms for obtaining all-India permit, should be awarded  punishment in order to send clear signals that laxity or holding up applications for bribe would not be tolerated in government offices. The government should also conduct an investigation into the allegations by the taxi operators that a permit was issued to a non-Goan operator who sought it for a nine-year-old vehicle.

This is not the first time that taxi operators have fought with the government.  Despite numerous agitations and strikes the state authorities have failed to regulate the functioning of taxi operators. In April this year, around 15,000 taxi operators went on two-day strike protesting against the government’s failure to curb illegal rent-a-cab and other transport businesses and the government decision to make installation of fare meters compulsory. The taxi operators paralyzed movement of traffic by resorting to a strike, in the process causing serious inconvenience to thousands of tourists and locals. In order to break the strike and restore normal traffic movement the government promised to resolve the nine issues raised by the taxi operators association within four weeks. Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar promised that the panel headed by him would expeditiously find answers to the issues raised by the taxi operators’ associations. However, even though four months have passed since the strike was called off no action has been taken. With the government failing to resolve the issues the taxi operators are scheduled to meet after Ganesh Chaturthi to chalk out future course of action and might decide to resort to a strike to press for their demands, which could again have a telling effect on the movement of traffic.

The state authorities by failing to deal firmly with the violators of laws, particularly relating to fixing of fare meters as also curbing the illegal use of private vehicles for transport business over the years have allowed business rivalry and illegalities to flourish, which have led to these avoidable issues being raised at frequent intervals. Goa being a tourist state cannot afford frequent strikes by taxi operators. The authorities need to come up with firm answers to the issues raised from different quarters in the transport businesses and put an end to illegalities as that would be good for locals, tourists, and tourist industry, including the hospitality sector. The authorities should not delay decision making on vital issues just because some sections patronized by certain politicians will be hurt. The government should allow rule of the law to prevail in the state under all circumstances and bring discipline in the taxi business and prevent operators from resorting to strike on one or the other ground. Since the fare meters would help people from being fleeced by unscrupulous taxi operators, who charge at their whims and fancies, the government should ensure that all taxis are fitted with the fare meters. At the same time the government should ensure that illegal taxi businesses are either regularized as per the norms or shut down. This will help the authorities earn revenue by way of permit fees and other taxes and end illegal business practices and also meet the key demand of the taxi operators. The government should also bring in transparency in the functioning of the transport department and rid it of corruption and ensure timely services.

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