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Taxi union’s app-based service must win people’s confidence

THE North Goa Tourist Taxi Owners Association, one of the unions of taxi operators in the state, has decided to roll out its own taxi-hailing app which could be used by people to book taxis operated by its members. The move is apparently aimed to compete with GoaMiles, a government-operated app-based taxi aggregator. Goans would warmly welcome the North Goa Tourist Taxi Owners Association’s plan to make the business more competitive as that would offer them choices. Their plan has come as a surprise though as taxi operators had been all along opposed to any government move or media suggestion to streamline the business and make it fair and transparent. They opposed fare meters, app-based taxi operations and entry of app-based taxi services.

Let us hope the taxi operators stop the practice of overcharging when they start their app-based service. The North Goa Tourist Taxi Owners Association has said they would start the service once their taxis are fitted with automated tracking device, an integrated emergency system and fare meter. A fare meter has been made compulsory by the High Court, so the association cannot avoid it. The association has said it is going to have a fixed fare structure based on government rates with no surge pricing and no incentives for drivers on the lines of a traditional cab aggregator, unlike Ola/Uber and GoaMiles. One flaw in association’s app will be that it will give no option to check the estimated fare. The association must give the people the option in order to inspire trust. Their service should not leave any room for any suspicion. Transparency has been one of the fundamental reasons why millions have started using app-based taxi services across the country. The taxi operators of Goa have a bad image as far as fare is concerned. They will need to do more to regain the confidence of the people. Otherwise, it would only damage their business. The taxi operators have to bear in mind that in the age of competition only those who adhere to fair practices will survive.

There are over 29,000 taxis in the state, of which only 1,453 are registered with GoaMiles. Scores of those who wanted to join GoaMiles were pressurised to abandon the idea and many of them obliged. Taxi operators accused GoaMiles of resorting to unfair practices and charging low fare which gave the owners of taxis registered with them poor earnings. The taxi operators also alleged that the taxis registered with GoaMiles were not owned by Goans and wanted the government to enforce the 15-year domicile clause to make sure only Goans were registered. The allegation was found to be false: all taxis registered with GoaMiles were owned by Goans.

Stakeholders in the tourism industry that have always demanded a fair and transparent taxi service are amused by the change of heart by the taxi union to start app-based service, but they say they would be happy if tourists get better transport facilities in a competitive environment. Fair taxi business is important for Goa to gain a hospitable image among tourists. While the taxi operators from North Goa have decided to come up with an app, those from South Goa are yet to do so. Goans would be happier if all the taxi operators come out with a transparent system of operations that will win the confidence of people who hire their services. Goa does not have very good public transport. The scope for developing a large network of rail, road and water transport in Goa is limited owing to many natural and human constraints. Infrastructure projects have faced resistance from people whose houses fall in the line of construction. Intra-city and inter-city bus transport remains highly inadequate, undependable, slow and time-consuming. The state government and the civic bodies have shown very little imagination and commitment to transform public transport. They should have at least created a model of public transport in Panaji the state capital, but they have disappointed us. Under these conditions cheap, competitive, excellent, 24×7 taxi services can make an attractive public transport.

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