Ola, Uber cabs go off Bengaluru roads, drivers protest against fare cuts

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Many drivers attached to India's two largest cab aggregators Uber and Ola went off the roads on Monday to protest falling earnings as the two companies dropped fares to compete for customers that led to reduced incentives.

Their demand is that both firms stop incentive payouts and stick to the Rs 19.50 fare fixed by the state government. The drivers, majority of them from rural Karnataka, have sought intervention of H D Kumaraswamy, President of Janata Dal (Secular), the party founded by former prime minister H D Deve Gowda.

"It should be a win-win situation for both the drivers and them (Uber and Ola). It should not be at each other's cost," said Kumaraswamy, who on Monday petitioned Karnataka's Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy to solve the issue. "Most of the drivers are from villages. They are struggling to even pay EMI."

Kumaraswamy's intervention comes a year ahead of the assembly elections in Karnataka, where the party looks at being a key player in the next government. While the ruling Congress is set to face anti-incumbency, the main opposition party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is facing internal strife with its two key leaders - former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa and his former deputy K S Eshwarappa fighting publicly.

The Monday morning protest forced an unprecedented surge in the number of private vehicles on roads, bringing traffic to a standstill in most roads. Bengaluru is among the biggest markets for both aggregators, who have seen similar strikes in other cities. Early this month, drivers went on a five-day strike seeking better incentives from the aggregators.

Both Ola and Uber have separate leasing arms, where they promote drivers to lease cars and run on their platform. The drivers are allowed to payment instalments every day, besides getting cars and service on discount when they lease from the platform.

"They are giving vehicles on lease to drivers from other states and are driving more business to them. We cannot even pay our EMIs (equated monthly installments) on the cars as there is no business and whatever we do get is very low-priced," said Tanveer Pasha, who is from the Ola TaxiForSure and Uber Drivers and Owners Association.

"Business goes to leased cabs first before coming to cars that are owned by drivers. Second, the 2016 aggregator license says that they have to fix the fare at Rs 19.50 per kilometer, but they are charging Rs 4, Rs 6 and from the airport to anywhere in the city they charge just Rs 450," he said.

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