Ola, Uber strike: Delhi, Mumbai commuters suffer; Top 10 developments

Drivers of Ola, Uber Cab Protest for their demands at Chakala Andheri in Mumbai. Photo: PTI
Do you use Ola and Uber for your daily commute? If yes, you may want to find other modes of transport. Commuters in Mumbai suffered as drivers of the app-based cab aggregators Ola and Uber today went on an indefinite strike called by the transport wing of the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.

"Talks are underway with the app-based cab aggregators. A decision on (calling off) the strike is expected tomorrow," Sanjay Naik, president of the Maharashtra Navnirman Vahtuk Sena, told PTI here.

The strike was called to protest the low earnings of drivers operating cabs for Ola and Uber, Naik said.

Office commuters, who use the app-based service daily, were in for a longer wait today as the number of such cabs was less owing to the strike.

"I faced the same issue. No cabs agreed to come from Parel to Powai," tweeted hotelier Benaifer Kapadia.

While Naik said almost 99 per cent of the around 1.30 lakh such cabs were off the roads today, Ola and Uber did not quantify the number of such cabs.

Naik said drivers of these cabs are not able to cover costs due to the falling business.

"We expect the cab companies to discuss with the government how they can come at par with the black and yellow taxis, and other public modes of transport," Naik said.

The Mumbai Police rubbished reports that the strike supporters stopped cars in the suburban Marol and Ghatkopar areas and broke the windshields of Ola and Uber cabs, which were not a part of the strike.

Uber said the company was committed to serve its customers.

"We regret the disruption caused to our rider and driver community by a small group of individuals. We remain committed to serving the city, ensuring driver partners can continue to access stable earning opportunities, while giving riders a convenient option to get around their city," Uber said in a statement.

In Mumbai alone, there are over 45,000 Ola and Uber cabs but a slump in business has seen a drop of about 20 per cent in their numbers. 

Meanwhile, the police has issued notices to leaders of the union under section 149 of CrPC relating to unlawful assembly. 

Ola spokesperson told Business Standard through an email, "We have been informed by the Mumbai Police that they have proactively taken all the necessary steps to ensure the safety of commuters during their cab rides in the city."

Meanwhile, a cab driver, Santosh Yadav in Mumbai condemned the strike. He said, "I am totally against this strike, as this is being conducted by a small group of drivers".

The driver alleged that most of the protesting drivers are 'blacklisted'.

"Majority of them are blacklisted drivers, removed by the app taxi companies for misconduct against customers", he said.

Here are the top 10 developments of the Ola, Uber strike:

1. Ola, Uber drivers’ strike starts: The transport wing of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena has organised the indefinite strike of drivers of cab aggregators Uber and Ola starting today. The Ola and Uber drivers are demanding extra pay as a surge in the number of cabs on the two platforms, coupled with cutbacks in incentive payments, have stung drivers.

While taxi-hailing companies offered loan-guarantee letters to drivers through the Mudra scheme and that too without any verification, they are defaulting on repayment now as their costs are not covered, Naik claimed.

Other taxi unions, including the Mumbai Taximen's Union, have extended support.

2. MNS leader breaks taxi windshield:  The business of other transport modes, especially autos and normal taxis has often been reported to have taken a plunge in ridership ever since Uber and Ola forayed in India. Showing his agnst agains this, MNS leader Nitin Nandgaonkar today afternoon broke the windshield of either an Ola or an Uber cab. 

#WATCH Mumbai taxi drivers strike: Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leader Nitin Nandgaonkar breaks windshield of a taxi which was plying in the city pic.twitter.com/ZERyZXU68h

— ANI (@ANI) March 19, 2018

Speaking on this, Al Quadros, general secretary, Mumbai Taximen's Union said, "The transport department should take strict action as these taxi-hailing companies are violating permit conditions, and also encroaching on the taxi-rickshaw business. It is good they are going on strike.”

Sanjay Naik demanded that the ride hailers comply with norms similar to that of the fleet of yellow-black taxis in the state.

"We expect the cab companies to come to the table today and discuss with the government how they can come at par with the black and yellow taxis, and other public modes of transport," said Sanjay Naik, according to news agency PTI.

"If there is no meeting or resolution, then we shall decide on our next course of action," he said.

We demand that Ola and Uber taxis agree to the laws by which the yellow-black taxis are run. They are doing business unlawfully: Sanjay Naik, MNS on strike of Ola and Uber taxi drivers called by Maharashtra Navnirman Vahtuk Sena in #Mumbai pic.twitter.com/RghCnobT6g

— ANI (@ANI) March 19, 2018

3. Drivers claim Ola, Uber cheated them: Ola and Uber drivers said that while both the firms promised them an average monthly income between Rs 100,000 to Rs 150,000, the same was not the case. However, they initially believed them, and ended up buying cars on loans. Now that they are being underpaid, they have decided to go on a strike, said Swaraj Vahan Chalak Malak Sanghatna President Guru Katti, reported Times of India. 

An average cost of a car varies between Rs 500,000 to 700,000. 

4. Fuel hike adds to Ola, Uber drivers’ woes: Katti said a hike in the fuel prices have left drivers in distress with many being unable to pay their instalments and for the loans they took on their cabs, added the English daily.

5. Drop in per-km fare giving nightmares: Where the per-kilometre fare once to hover around Rs 10, the same has dropped to Rs 6 now due to the stiff competition between Ola and Uber. Moreover, Ola Share offers share pass varying on the distance one intends to travel. For instance, one can buy a pass for Rs 10 valid for 30 days, where one would be required to pay just Rs 30 for distance up to four kms and Rs 200 for distance up to 20 kms. Similarly, Uber offers slashes rates on its ‘POOL’ rides and often gives 50 per cent discount to users on Uber Go, which is the cheapest Uber car ride after share. 

6. Ola giving preference to cars owned by them: Allegations have also been made that Ola is giving preferences to its own cars rather than the ones owned by drivers. Highlighting one such incident, a driver said that even if a car owned by them is closer to a rider, the company will book for the rider the car that is owned by the company, according to media reports. 

7. Police issue notice to union leaders in Mumbai:  "Notices of section 149 of CrPC have been issued to Sanjay Naik, president, Arif Shaikh and Nitin Nandgaokar of the Maharashtra Navnirman Vahatuk Sena as preventive action. If they violate any orders, they are liable to be prosecuted," said Pandit Thorat, senior inspector of the Andheri police station.

8. Uber stays mum: Uber was not immediately reachable for comment, while Ola's spokesman said it was too early in the day to measure the impact of the strike, according to news agency Reuters. "We have been informed by the Mumbai Police that they have proactively taken all the necessary steps to ensure the safety of commuters during the cab rides in the city," an Ola spokesperson said.

9. Not protesting for the first time: Earlier, on March 2017, Ola and Uber drivers went on a strike in Delhi-NCR region, demanding a hike in per km fare. 

Sarvodaya Drivers’ Association, which extended their support to 125,000 app-based taxi drivers in Delhi-NCR, had demanded that fares be increased from existing Rs 6 per km to around Rs 20 per km. It also demanded the abolition of 25 per cent commission the drivers are charged by companies.

They had gone on strike in February, too, which had lasted 13 days, causing inconvenience to commuters in Delhi, Noida, Ghaziabad, Gurgaon and Faridabad.

10. Drivers had even tried to commit suicide: In March 2017, two drivers in Bengaluru had tried to commit suicide outside Ola’s office in the city, while one driver who ignored the strike was assaulted by protesters. 

Drivers attached to Uber and Ola in Bengaluru had started their hunger strike at Freedom Park to protest against falling earnings on the cab-hailing platforms. Even then, drivers had been complaining of falling earnings as both companies had reduced incentives. These companies had also kept fares rock-bottom as they fear losing customers if prices were increased.

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