The drivers of Uber and Ola went on a protest at toll nakas bordering Mumbai on Monday morning. Their demand; hike in fares on the lines of those approved to black and yellow taxis and auto rickshaws. Their demand is to increase the fares by four times of existing rate.
The protest from these aggregator cab drivers started today and will go on at the city borders till March 10. They want the base fare to be Rs 100 and for the subsequent kilometer, Rs 25. The current fare is anywhere around Rs 30-35 as base fare and Rs 6-7 for subsequent kilometer run as a minimum. However, there is no control on this and fares rise and fall arbitrarily.
"We want the base fare to be at least Rs 100. Also, these fares should vary depending on the type of vehicle. Given the rise in fuel cost, running aggregator cabs has become difficult," said Prashant Sawardekar, president, Maharashtra App-Based Transport Workers Union.
Currently, the demand for these aggregator cabs has already dropped in this pandemic, according to driver unions and any such hike would only impact the demand further. The App-based driver unions claim that on Monday almost 1000 drivers stood at various toll nakas and it shall continue at borders of Vashi, Dahisar, and Mulund.
On March 8, these drivers were holding placards and posters blaming the aggregator cabs and delivery services for not doing much as far as fares are concerned. "The aggregator companies are charging Rs 6-7 per km but after the increase in fuel prices, it has become impossible to drive aggregator cabs. The government should lower the cost of fuel," said another member of the drivers' association.
The Union will take this issue at an all-India level and will meet the Transport ministry in Delhi in the coming days. "If the issue isn't resolved then we will go on a strike," added Sawardekar. "We want the base fares and per kilometer charges to be increased. It's okay to remove surge pricing".
The surge pricing, where during peak hours or if there is an increase in demand for a particular route, is still there at 2-3 times of actual fares. This is a major source of earning behind every ride for an aggregator cabs. But due to the pandemic the drivers are struggling to pay bank loans taken on their vehicles plus the demand from passengers have dropped.
The Khatua committee had recommended a ceiling fare for three categories of aggregator cabs: regular, mid-sized and premium, at ₹26, ₹32, and ₹38 per km, respectively. The base fare for the three categories was fixed between ₹14 and ₹16 per km. However according to RTO officials the state government is yet to approve these and regulate fares.