Taxi operators seem to be in no mood to accept the Goa government’s proposal to fix digital meters and GPS (ground positioning system) on them. For years taxi operators have resisted regulation and succeeded in thwarting government proposals leveraging influence of politicians.
We shall be keenly watching how the government goes about its new proposals for digital meters and GPS which are meant to address complaints of consumers, both tourists and residents, that taxis charge exorbitantly. With rates fixed and digital meters fixed, the consumers will be assured that they are paying fixed rates and not arbitrarily fixed rates. And with GPS, taxi drivers have to follow the shortest route to the destination, which will assure consumers they are not being taken round and round by them just in order to get more money.
It would be wrong on the state government’s part to put off its regulatory proposals. The government has failed to implement its proposals of formalising the industry and raising taxi service quality standards all these years. Taxi operators pose the real threat of stalling the government’s proposals; their success can only lead to further deterioration of the quality of taxi services. There seems to be a lack of communication between the government and taxi operators’ associations. Taxi operators’ associations have not been a very organised entity; the usual scene is that taxi operators get together when threatened by government measures for imposition of quality standards and disperse after they are successful in prevailing over the government.
So, the first problem for the government seems to be who they can negotiate with on the new proposals. Maybe, this is the best time for the government to make taxi operators submit to quality standards. One of the key steps to measure the service quality of taxis is the physical condition of the vehicle. Tourists and residents getting down at Dabolim airport and engaging a taxi with a pre-paid ticket are never provided the option of checking the physical condition of the taxi vehicle before paying for its service. Many of the taxis provided on pre-paid tickets are shabby; their luggage space could be having some private bags of the taxi operator or driver themselves; their glasses may not properly open or close; and their bodies could be old and quaking even with slight roughness on the road.
The second quality missing is what we can call ‘empathy’. Taxi drivers are not very responsive to customer needs; they may pretend not to hear customers’ requests, or even when they hear it they might not respond quickly and effectively. The fact that many of them are insensitive towards the needs of their commuters almost amounts to rudeness by default. It is this insensitivity, rather than plain abrasive/abusive speech or bullying behaviour, that has worked more substantially to create a negative perception about taxi services in Goa.
The third aspect that must improve is rates. Taxi service providers in the state almost always justify their ‘double’ charges on the ground that a taxi might not get business on return journey. That is not a very fair argument, for if a customer is forced to pay even for the return journey which he does not make on the presumption that the taxi will not get any customer on way back, he should be paid back the extra for the return journey he paid in case the taxi happened to get a customer on way back. Will taxi service providers agree to a regulatory system by which the extra money for empty return journey made by the taxi is returned to the customer if the taxi picks up a customer on the return journey? That could make the beginning of a total quality movement in the state’s taxi service.