CHENNAI: The Tamil Nadu government is working on a full-fledged rulebook for app-based aggregators on fares, safety standards, and driver regulation to codify the regulatory framework for ride hailing app services like Ola and Uber.
The state transport authority which drafts the rules for public transport has cleared a proposal, which is being deliberated by the state government.
“We had sent the proposal some time back. We are expecting a government order soon. Since the state budget is being readied, the timing could not be predicted, but it is imminent. The proposal we had sent included fare determination too,” said P Murganantham, joint transport commissioner, Tamil Nadu. The move by Tamil Nadu arrives in the backdrop of small-scale protests and picketing by drivers of app-based aggregators Ola and Uber over a raft of grievances, especially the dwindling of incentives.
While ET’s mails to Ola and Uber remained unanswered, experts tracking the cab-aggregator space observe that currently only Delhi and Bengaluru have a taxi policy that recognises technology players; Mumbai had issued a policy draft but was not able to finalise it.
“The key challenge with state transport departments is to implement and enforce these regulations,” said Jaspal Singh of transport consultancy Valoriser Consultants.
“It has been seen in the past that the state department was not able to enforce the regulations.” However, the government of India has already issued draft national guidelines and it is likely that those guidelines will become mandato ry for all states after the clearance of the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2016.
Last week, a small section of drivers, supported by the Centre for Indian Trade Unions, did not switch on their driver applications for two days and picketed the offices of the state transport authority in Chennai.
The protests follow similar stance taken by drivers of Ola and Uber at other key metropolises like Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Delhi-NCR.
The main grievance of many of the drivers is that their earnings have dropped considerably and the work hours have increased every day.
A minimum fare of Rs 17 for 4 km and Rs 100 for every additional kilometre forms the core demand of drivers.
Denying claims of widespread disgruntlement among drivers, sources from the management of app-based aggregators say driving for them is still a profitable enterprise.
Persons aware of the developments at Ola have said the number of drivers happy with the current payment regime out-number the protesters by a huge margin, “Driving with Ola is still beneficial for the drivers, which is why our supply of cabs has increased over the months.” For drivers, the going has just become tougher. B Jothilingam, who works for one of the app-based aggregators in the city, said, “We had to earn Rs 2,500 a day from customer earnings to be eligible for the daily incentive. That target has been raised now, making our work hours even longer than 15 hours a day.”
A little over two years ago, the call taxi industry came under severe government scrutiny after an incident of crime against a woman passenger in Delhi.
The Tamil Nadu transport regulator had convened a meeting of representatives of all taxi aggregators to push for installation of GPS systems and panic buttons. Government officials had last week assured the drivers who had struck work that the state will regulate operations of these companies.
“What we need is a regulatory panel comprising drivers, representatives from the app-aggregators, transport authority officials and members of the public. This will end up serving the needs of all quarters,” said K Bhimrao, former state assembly legislator with the CPI(M), who has been supporting disgruntled drivers.
(With inputs from Varsha Bansal from Hyderabad)