Delhi govt asks IT ministry to block Uber, Ola mobile apps

The Delhi government asked the ministry of information technology to block the mobile applications of taxi aggregators Ola and Uber, after asking the companies to stop plying in the capital.

On Tuesday, Delhi transport officials had asked Uber and Ola to cease operations if they wanted their applications for a radio taxi licence to operate in the city to be processed.

The letter, reviewed by Business Standard, said, “In order to process your application further, I am directed to seek a sworn affidavit declaring therein that you are complying with the ban order imposed upon your company in letter & spirit.”

Late last year, following the rape of a woman passenger by an Uber cab driver, the government had banned unregistered cab aggregators, including Ola and Uber, from plying in the national capital.

While Uber returned to the roads after staying away for a few weeks, Ola continued plying in Delhi. At present, both Ola and Uber operate in the city.

“We are working with the authorities at every level and have duly applied for a licence in Delhi. We haven’t received any notice or notification since that. On the other hand, we have pro-actively gone over and beyond the set requirements in terms of customer safety measures across the country,” a spokesperson of Ola said.

An email sent to Uber remained unanswered.

The transport department and radio cab operators have locked horns since last December, following the public outrage over alleged rape. But most cab operators continued to operate.

According to a senior official at a cab aggregator company, the government can ask the telecom providers to block the IP address which enables the users to use these apps. But there is still not adequate clarity on how hard it could turn out to be for the government to block an app or website. According to tech experts, blocking an app is harder than a website.

Lately, India’s taxi services market, despite its financial stress, has received attention from global investors, primarily because the “radio taxi” model has emerged as the fastest-growing and most reliable form of public transport for the world’s second-largest population. Last year, Japan’s Softbank infused fresh funds into Ola. In fact, reports claim, Ola is close to getting next round of funding from Russian billionaire Yuri Milner.

There are 19 radio taxi operators in the country, including Mega Cabs, Easy Cabs, Meru Cabs, and Tab Cabs, according to the Association of Radio Taxis. These operators run about 25,000 cabs across India. There are about 600,000 taxis in India, generating a combined annual revenue of about Rs 11,000 crore.