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Rethinking Taxi Scene in Goa

THE 15,000-odd tourist taxis went off roads on Monday demanding a ban on rent-a-car, private taxis and related businesses and their strike has been extended by two more days. Tourist taxi operators allege that the government was allowing private taxi operators a “backdoor entry” which would kill their business. The truth is around 40 per cent of the private taxis are operated by those who have permits to operate tourist taxis; the number of private taxis runs into thousands. Unlicensed private taxi business has been flourishing in the state for more than a decade and half, thanks to strong government deterrence owing to patronage provided by powerful politicians.

Tourist taxi operators defied invocation of the Essential Service Maintenance Act (ESMA) as the law enforcing authorities looked on helplessly. The strike put thousands of people to hardship. Passengers arriving by air in the morning were most affected as there was no communication about the availability of the Kadamba Transport Corporation and Goa Tourism Development Corporation buses pressed into service.  Also, the number of buses was inadequate. And there was no one to guide the passengers to the buses. The passengers found themselves seeking the help of good Samaritans or involuntarily hiring  one of the many private vehicles which were operated as taxis at a much higher cost. Luckily for people,  rickshaw operators did not oblige the tourist taxi operators by joining the strike call. The situation was brought under control by the afternoon with the local political leaders and some officials turning up at the airport to guide the passengers about the alternative mode of transport. As the strike is going to continue for two more days, it is going to cause inconvenience to many more tourists and Goans who would be arriving at the airport and railway stations on Tuesday and Wednesday. The government should make better alternative arrangements for the coming two days.

The issue raised by the tourist taxis is not new but the indecisiveness of the government on it for a long time has allowed it to turn into a serious one. If it is not addressed quickly and satisfactorily, there is every possibility of taxi operators turning violent to force the authorities to take a decision. The government has failed to streamline taxi business and operations. It has failed to ensure that the taxi operators adhere to reasonable fare and installation of meters. In the absence of fare meters tourists and locals continue to be fleeced by the taxi operators with different fares being charged even by the pre-paid taxi operators. The government needs to take a firm decision on the issue in the interest of the general public as well as the taxi operators so as to ensure that there was a fair business with none being manipulated to the advantage of the other. Since the role of the taxi operators was important for the tourism sector as well as a means of transport for locals, it is high time all the prejudice and resistance against an organized taxi operation system was given up by those who operate taxis in the state.

Ola and Uber are two companies that do not own a taxi but use the taxis in operation to run their businesses completely controlled by software. Their operations have been successful in most parts of the country, with taxi owners earning a good income every month. The more hours a taxi puts in, the more it earns. Ola has been especially successful as it is an Indian company that has focus on Indian cities. By opposing Ola entry some time ago, the taxi operators of Goa did not act wisely in their interest.  It would perhaps open the eyes of the leaders of the All Goa Tourist Taxi Owners Association and South Goa Tourist Taxi Owners Association, the organizations that are leading the strike, if they visit say, Delhi to study how Ola and Uber have proved a win-win idea for everyone: the company, the taxi operators and the travelling people. Anyone in any part of Delhi can just press an app on his or her mobile Ola and get a taxi at their doorstep within minutes. The service is quick and at hand and the fare is cheaper, so people are happy; and the taxi operator gets a passenger around the place he drops his last passenger, so his occupancy is high and so the earnings, despite lower fare, are high. The taxi operators of Goa should rethink their opposition to the entry of companies such as Ola and Uber, for they would definitely earn more than they are earning today.

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