Thursday , 21 March 2019

Questions On Quality Of Taxi Service At Dabolim

THOUGH the new Dabolim airport is becoming busier, travelling to and from it is still beset with problems, one of which is absence of parking facilities, coupled with high taxi charges. Passengers are sometimes charged thousands of rupees, more than the airfare some of them might have paid to travel to Goa, as taxi fare. Despite the fact that fuel in Goa is a lot cheaper than in other places! The taxi charges have been revised recently and people are forced to pay a minimum amount of Rs 200 additionally to the fares that were charged some months ago. Night charge has been raised from Rs 200 to Rs 300. The lack of proper parking facilities has plagued the airport for two decades. The car parking facility built to ease the situation has remained nonoperational because of security concerns owing to its proximity to the aircraft parking bays. The lack of parking facilities inconvenience taxi drivers as they are forced to park far away from the terminal and rush up and down to fetch their vehicles to ferry the passengers to their destination on getting a client. Absence of proper parking facility at times prompts taxi operators and private vehicle owners to disobey rules and park their vehicles in any available space. Such violations have been going on for years with the authorities not doing anything to make it orderly. Recently the traffic police issued challans to taxi operators for violations in protest against which the taxi operators shut down the taxi counter and suspended taxi operations. Whatever might be the reasons behind such ‘clashes’ between police and taxi operators, the face-offs put the clients or passengers to great discomfort, especially the tourists who arrive in the state and have to totally depend on taxis to reach their destinations.
Though a multi-level car park has been constructed at a cost of Rs 14.5 crore along with the new terminal building it has not been put to use for security reasons and has turned out to be a waste of investment. The multi-level car park was constructed speedily by the Airport Authority of India to partly deal with the situation arising after the state government abruptly denotified the land that was marked for car park. With several central agencies raising the issues of security it is unlikely that the car park could be put to use anytime soon. Several inspections by the teams of experts from central agencies have suggested various measures to be adopted to put the parking facility to use but some of these measures, including issue of Radio-Frequency Identification tags, are seen as a costly affair by AAI authorities which would be resisted, if not rejected, by users. In the process, the new car parking facility would continue to remain unused. The AAI is now toying with the idea of setting up a newer parking facility and has approached the state government with a request to acquire a new plot of land. Even if this request is accepted it would take years for the new facility to be built and put to use. As a result people arriving at and departing from the airport and taxi operators would continue to suffer for a long time to come. The state authorities, the AAI and central agencies should sit together and find an early solution to the parking problem.
Tourism contributes significantly to the state exchequer. Bad experience with taxis at the airport could be seen by tourists as a negative point for Goa. As it is, the quality of taxi service is not uniformly good. While hundreds of taxis are lined up at the airport, not all of them are in good and satisfactory condition. There have been instances when passengers are charged for air-conditioned vehicles and later on, when they are seated in the taxi, informed that the air-conditioning is not functional: the passengers are not refunded the additional amount charged for AC. The condition of several vehicles is bad but they continue to be used. While taxi travel has been becoming cheaper and extremely convenient in other parties of the country following introduction of Ola and Uber taxi fleets the situation in Goa is going in the opposite direction as these services have been banned under the pressure of the taxi lobby. The state authorities need to intervene on behalf of tourists and locals and save them from being overcharged by taxi operators for travelling to and from the airport. If Goa’s taxi lobby does not want cheaper and more convenient taxi services to throw them out of business they should provide quality services at cheaper rates. Protectionism cannot be used as a licence to fleece locals and tourists.

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