Finally, every taxi running in the state is going to have a fare meter. After years of thwarting by taxi operators the government is going ahead and has selected two companies to manufacture 32,000 integrated devices with fare meter and digital printer. The meters will also have a vehicle location tracking system and an emergency button with connectivity to the backend control centre of Goa Electronics Limited. With the selection of the two companies, road has been paved for implementation of the Bombay High Court order for compulsory installation of fare meter in all the taxis. The High Court had issued directions following a petition filed by the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa seeking installation of taxi meters. The High Court also monitored the tendering process for selection of the bidders. Though the two firms have been selected the transport department has not issued the orders to them yet owing to model code of conduct being in force. The department has to complete the process as soon as the model code of conduct period is over and enforce the regulation for taxis by September end.
Taxi operators have for years made tourists and Goans pay far more than was reasonable. They have resisted regulation with political lobbying. The taxi operators have managed to hold the government to ransom every time it decided to enforce rules to regulate the taxi business and bring transparency with the help of their political champions. Every government in the state had to abandon its plans on being threatened by its ministers and MLAs who wanted to please the taxi operators. Goa is among favourite tourist destinations but the image of Goans as a fair-minded and hospitable community has been dented due to excessive charging by taxi operators. The helplessness of tourists as well as locals is compounded by the failure of government officials to act against overcharging, and sometimes aggressive, taxi operators. It has taken over two decades for the state government to take steps to bring in transparency in the taxi business.
Now it appears things are going to change with the government deciding to go ahead with the directives of the High Court and enforce reforms in the taxi business. The transport department along with the Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) refused to yield to the pulls and pressures of the taxi operator groups and went ahead with the launch of an app-based taxi service. With the decision to install fare meters with tracking devices the government has shown its will to take on the might of the taxi operators. Since the government has been directed by the High Court it is unlikely that it can now put off the decision to implement the rule relating to fare meters. Since the High Court is watching there is every possibility of taxi operators accepting the fate but resorting to pressure tactics to get a better deal for themselves from the government. They might use their political clout to force the government to fix high tariff to “make up for the losses” with the installation of fare meters. The state government would need to keep the interests of the public in mind and not succumb to such pressures from the taxi operators. The government’s aim should be to establish a regulated taxi service industry that serves the people with reasonable fare and comforts and safety. Of course, the government has to fix a tariff system that keeps taxi service profitable in order to be growing with the demand.
The government would need to ensure that the system to bring in transparency in the taxi business is foolproof and that the meters are not tampered. The demand for taxis has been on increase; the business is likely to grow with tourists and locals preferring to hire taxis if rates were reasonable. Tourism and taxi business are like geese that lay golden eggs, provided the service providers do not become overambitious and kill the geese. Any tactics to thwart competition and fair play in the business would be to the detriment of the taxi operators. While implementing the new regime the government has to ensure that there was adequate backup to ensure that taxi operators do not take advantage of system being down owing to technical faults or otherwise. The complaints of taxi operators have to be attended to on priority so as to avoid any manipulations by them or any losses to them. It is time Goa’s taxi operators won the hearts of tourists and Goans with fair trade practices.