Mumbai: For the last few months, taxi drivers of all denominations in the city bemoaned the brakes that the lockdown had slammed on their livelihoods. Now that we are in the midst of calibrated unlocking, cabbies are back on the roads, ferrying those among the 30 per cent reporting to work, but now, with rising temperatures, tempers are rising in temperature-controlled cabs.
Every day, somewhere in the city, there is a falling out between cabbies and their potential fare over this issue.
Drivers of app cabs plying on Mumbai's roads say, they are regularly forced to cancel trips because their passengers insist on airconditioned rides. Currently, the standing instruction for these drivers from their aggregators is to keep the car windows open during the ride, to avoid recirculation of air, which is not possible when the windows are rolled up and the AC is on.
"Last week I had to cancel three trips in a single day, as each of the fares had the same demand: Switch on the AC for the duration of the trip," said Roshan Kumar, a cab driver.
"When we confirm a booking, passengers call us to check if we will be switching on the AC. When our answer is a 'no', they cancel the trip rightaway," said Junaid Sheikh, a cab-driver in the city.
Ever since the monsoon has withdrawn, temperatures are rising and since the end of August, the volume of requests to keep the AC on has been increasing, cabbies say.
"Customers need to understand we have to abide by our company policy. If we are found in violation, traffic police can confiscate our licence and the company will not even intervene in the matter" Kumar explains.
"Given this frequent cancellation of trips, we are not able to break even on expenses on any given day and must bear fuel costs as well," Sheikh says.
"I cancelled a booking last month, on learning that the driver was not going to keep the AC switched on. The driver was so mad at me about the cancellation, he called back and hurled abuses at me," said a passenger.
"There are some who refrain from switching on the AC, but there are also many who prefer to keep the AC on, at the lowest setting," she said.
Another passenger narrated how he halted the cab halfway through the ride and stormed out after a spat with one of the drivers.
"It was raining outside and I began to feel suffocated. So, I requested the driver to switch on the AC but he declined. We had an argument and he asked me to get off," recalled another passenger. He then informed the traffic police and the customer service of the cab aggregator.
An app cab source also confirmed the veracity of such occurences in the last couple of months. There has been an increase in complaints, from customers as well as drivers, regarding the issue of airconditioning, according to the source.
"Our executives in Mumbai are receiving three to five complaints each day, from drivers and customers, on the usage of air-conditioners. We have clearly stated in the app user manual why it is important to switch off the ACs while travelling," said the source.
"Also, with Mission Unlock, there has been a psychological shift in people and it seems as though they are no longer are scared of the pandemic," the source added.