Ola-Uber strike takes commuters for a bumpy ride

Ola and Uber taxi drivers shout slogans against withdrawal of incentives by the app-based cab aggregators, at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. Photo: PTI

Commuters in Delhi NCR had a harrowing time reaching their destinations on Wednesday as the impasse between Ola and Uber continued for the sixth straight day. According to certain reports, cab aggregation unions in Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai are also planning to go strike, however no decision has been taken by the unions till now.

According to sources, representatives of both Ola and Uber have had back channel talks with the leaders of the driver unions. However, not much has come out of it as the main cab aggregation union Sarvodaya Driver Association of Delhi is still holding on to its demands.

"A meeting was held to mediate the situation at the Delhi Transport Department office, however no solution has been hit upon as of now," said a senior department official. Delhi NCR drivers are agitating against everything from higher commission charged by the aggregators to being forced to ply for Rs 6 per kilometer.

However, cab aggregators said that things are getting back to normal though many commuters had to wait for close to 30 minutes to book cabs. Also at many places cab unions prevented cabbies from plying on road. Uber had filed a case against drivers in High Court which restrained anyone, including two taxi drivers' unions, from interfering with the running of app-based cabs of Uber, whose services had been disrupted due the recent strike by drivers.

"We are seeing more and more drivers getting back to work on the Ola platform over the last 48 hrs. We are happy to be able to serve more and more customers as the supply situation has begun to improve. Seamless mobility for consumers and sustainable livelihoods for driver-entrepreneurs on the Ola platform are of utmost priority to us," Ola said in a statement.

According to the union officials, both companies have only taken application of their issues but have not given any solution. "They have just taken a formal application but after that the communication with the companies has been minimum. While representatives of political parties have visited us none have been able to help us out. We will continue with the strike," said Brijmohan, a member of the driver association.

According to some industry experts, the flaw lies in implementation of model which includes on-boarding excessive cabs and drivers on the platform, to going back on promises of great returns.

"If you see a driver roughly needs roughly Rs 2,500-3,000 daily to maintain his car and family. What they end up with is around Rs 1,500. The agitating drivers think that they have been fooled by these companies who promised them earnings of close to a lakh but are earning just Rs 40,000 or less. These are the first signs of revolt. This will continue if they do not stop predatory pricing and make these cabs run at a loss," said Siddhartha Pahwa, former CEO and industry expert Meru Cabs.

According to sources, cab aggregators in Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai are planning to organise strikes. However cab aggregators said that strikes in these cities is highly unlikely.

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