Announcing the protest, the joint protest forum of Online Taxi Drivers Union (OTDC) and Kerala Online Drivers Congress (KODC) staged dharnas in front of regional offices of Ola Cabs at Thycaud and Uber Taxi at Kumarapuram here on Monday. They have informed both firms that they would go ahead with the strike if their demands are not met by March 25.
The major demands include unified fares for all online taxi services, decrease service charges by at least 15% (at present, 20%), return fares for inter-city services, stop unnecessary blocking of drivers without reason and relaxation time for settling debts instead of blocking.
According to general secretary of KODC, Stanley Shangumugham, response from both Ola and Uber was positive. “For instance, if we are booked for an Ernakulam trip, which is 500km in total, the customer needs our service only for 250km and we come empty on the return trip. The ride will fetch around Rs 4,500-5,000 as per current fares. Uber or Ola, which acts as a mediator, receive 20% commission and 6% tax, so eventually we get around, Rs 3,200-3,500. Since we need to spend around Rs 2,000 on diesel, what we finally get is around Rs 1,000. Hence, it is essential that our genuine demands are met by the taxi services,” he said.
In addition to the main demands, a list comprising 14 demands in total were submitted to the firms. Allowing drivers the flexibility to cancel trips they don’t want to take, doing away with fines for denying a trip, 24-hour regional customer care for Thiruvananthapuram with local service associates, waiting charge for located clients and implementation of riding fare time instead of fixed fares are some of the other demands.
Gopikrishnan, an online taxi driver who was blocked by Uber, said the blocking system needed to be revised.
“The customer service in Uber is in such a way that drivers have no fundamental freedom. Customer feedback is often blindly taken into account. Sometimes passengers litter inside the car. If we object, they give negative feedback. We are then blocked from taking rides and then directed to attend a moderation session for no reason. In my case, I was blocked without any reason for the past six months,” he said.
Taxi and auto driver Sunu Kumar, autorickshaws were profitable. “Earlier we used to have promotional offers like 12 trip and 15 trip incentives. Uber then joined many car deals and began attracting people to buy cars to ride at discounted prices. We became easily replaceable,” he said.