Goa’s taxis cannot go on defying the global trend
After dilly-dallying for decades the government has set in motion the process for fixing digital meters on taxis operating in the state. The process finally got underway on May 20. According to the transport department, the response from taxi operators has been good. Taxi operators are divided into two sections, one that opposes digital meters and the other that considers it beneficial. It is because the opposing section has been very vocal that the transport department has refrained from giving out the number of taxi operators who have come forward to get digital meters fixed. However, it would be naive to think the opposing section would not be watching who among the taxi operators have gone for digital meters. They would know who has done it and who has not. There are nearly 21,300 taxis registered in the state and an overwhelmingly large number of them are operated without meters. Besides, there are also over 3,000 four-wheelers and over 18,000 two-wheelers, which have been registered under the rent-a-car scheme that became operational in 1999.
Taxi operators have benefited from tourism in a big way. But they succeeded in running their business without any regulation for decades. Though installation of fare meters was long made mandatory, successive governments allowed taxi operators to charge arbitrary fares. However, with the Bombay High Court giving the final opportunity to the government to ensure that all the taxis were fitted with the digital fare meters the state government was left with no option to begin the process. To ensure larger compliance the government has decided to bear the cost of the installation of digital meters and other related gadgets. The taxi operators have to seek appointment for installation of meters at any of the four centres set up for the purpose and report there on the appointed date and time to complete the process.
Now that the process for installation of fare meters has been set in motion, the government should ensure that all those who come forward to comply with the mandatory requirement are not targeted by those that are opposing the scheme. The law enforcement agencies should be told to act strongly against such elements if they violate the law. The time chosen by the government for installation of fare meters seems to be appropriate as taxi operators have no business in view of the curfew. As the government is paying for the meters, more and more of them should come forward to get it installed. Failure to comply could lead to their permits being cancelled. They could be hauled up for running their business illegally if they defied the government. It is now for the taxi operators to choose whether to abide by the law and run their business legally or invite government action for disobedience.
All taxis must go for digital meters. The section opposing taxi meters is going against time. Customers today want fair practice. Meters have been a tradition in Mumbai for several decades. With meters there was no haggling and bargaining between the driver and the customer. At the end of the journey, the customer paid what the meter showed. In Goa even the simple meter has been opposed for decades by the stronger section of the taxi operators. Politicians for their own interest supported this section. Every time the state government announced it would fix meters to taxis, the organised section of operators did political lobbying and scuttled the government move. The same section of taxi operators has succeeded in forcing the state government to refuse permission to national app-based taxi services to operate in Goa. People the world over today prefer app-based taxi services. There are scores of such taxi services operating in every country. App-based services have proven a great boon to individual taxi owners and even drivers who drive taxis owned by others. Because app-based services attract customers in different parts during the day or night. Once the state government succeeds in getting digital meters installed in taxis, the demand for app-based services will pick up momentum. Ultimately, the state’s taxi operators would be thanking the government for bringing them in tune with the times.