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End Tyranny of Taxi Operators

TAXI operators in Goa have written their own laws for long. They have been operating contrary to the rules and regulations framed by the state government that members of other trades are made to conform to or pay penalties. Taxi owners are above law and no government has so far dared to compel them to abide by rules and regulations.  We must set it right once and for all. If you are against the entry of other service providers you have to follow the rules and regulations and prove that you care for customers. You got to improve your services. You cannot hold the system at ransom and say you won’t provide better facilities and not allow other options too.  It is strange to see how the tourist taxi owners of Goa can threaten a chakka jam in protest against the decision to allow rent-a-car permit system when they themselves are not ready to upgrade their vehicles and make them GPS-enabled and also not install digital fare meters.

In most major cities in India, especially which attract tourists, there are options for private cabs that come with the best practices, comforts and goodies such as a meter and printer, AC, better leg space, GPS and bottled water. In this era when the customer is the king, the Goa government has a responsibility to provide tourists with a fair deal. The authorities cannot allow taxi operators to have their way. They have held the government hostage for decades by threatening “political repercussions” if measures were enforced to make them conform to trade standards and best practices. The bluff of their political terrorism needs to be called by the Parsekar government here and now.

If rent-a-car permits can work in states like Delhi, Kerala and Rajasthan along with other service providers like Meri, Ola and Uber cabs, local residents can also avail of such facilities and be spared from being fleeced. In Kerala, there are radio taxis, B Cabs, Ride Easy taxis and,  to name a  few. In Rajasthan, besides Meri Cabs, there are private operators which have a fleet of cars and maintain proper websites for tourists both domestic and foreign.  In these states, there is no question of outsiders’ invasion to usurp the domain of local taxi operators.  What has installation of GPS and fare meters got to do with not being Goan? This is simply provocating the locals and fanning their ire for selfish ends. Not long ago, the taxi operators banded together and forced the state government to get Ola Cabs out of Goa even before they had started operating in the state. They have forced the state to keep the fare meter rule merely on paper for years and years.

Transport Minister Ramakrishna Dhavlikar has been repeatedly saying the government was very serious about getting taxis to install digital fare meters and GPS. Is the frequent reiteration a sign of his conviction or lack of it? We only hope he and Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar demonstrate real courage to take on the tyrannical taxi owners. No chief minister and transport minister has had the courage to tame them.  In 2013 the then chief minister Manohar Parrikar revised the tariff of all taxi operators at par with that of the self-employed tourist taxi operators, but let the taxi operators off the hook on fare meter. This cannot continue forever.  Even in Kolkata, which is infamous for trade unionism, all taxis have meters. The good old black and yellow Ambassador cabs often refused to take some routes. The West Bengal government introduced ‘No Refusal’ taxi service. There are also upmarket cab services for comfort travelling too.

The Goa government must force taxi operators to serve Goans and tourists better. Haven’t they already given Goa a bad name? At least we can start making amends to undo the damage. The government has to help customers who are spending hard-earned money to get good services. It is unfortunate that some opposition legislators are supporting the taxi operators, even threatening to stall Assembly proceedings for their “good cause”.  Good sense should prevail and Goa must wake up to the changes happening all around and rise above petty constituency politics. Politicians, both in the ruling and opposition camps, must realize that if at the end of the day   a tourist state earns a bad name for a rowdy taxi system and the word is spread around the state coffers suffer. Actually nobody stands to gain, except the tyrants.

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