Chennai, India – The Central government’s new guidelines for taxi aggregators may have brought cheer to commuters, but not all cab drivers are pleased. Surge pricing during peak hours has been capped at 50 per cent, and drivers will be under tighter scrutiny. Drivers who have been convicted of sexual offences or using drugs, among other crimes, over the past three years won’t be allowed to register with aggregators such as Ola and Uber, as per the new rules.
“The driver shall not have been convicted within the past three years for the offence of driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, any cognizable offence under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 or the Indian Penal Code, 1860, including fraud, sexual offences, use of a motor vehicle to commit a cognizable offence, a crime involving property damage or theft, acts of violence, or acts of terror,” says one of the guidelines.
Further, drivers must undergo a complete medical examination, including an eye-check up, at a hospital, and be provided insurance. The cost of the check-up and insurance will have to be borne by the aggregator. Aggregators will also have to complete the police verification of the driver 15 days before allowing them to work. For this, the police will have to be given access to the aggregator’s Application Programming Interface (APl). The State government has been empowered to cancel aggregators’ licenses if they don’t pay drivers on time.
As far as payments are concerned, customers are a relieved lot. While surge pricing used to shoot up to 250-300 per cent, it has now been capped at 50 per cent. “Until March, I used to pay `250-260 to travel from Thiruvanmiyur to T Nagar during peak hours, when the actual fare was only `80. With the new guidelines, the rate won’t exceed `120,” Said R Vinoth, an advocate.
A section of cab drivers is unhappy that the Centre allocated 80 per cent of the ride fare to drivers and 20 per cent to aggregators. They said Ola and Uber had been deducting 23-28 per cent from the fare, and the companies’ share should be reduced to 10 per cent.
To prevent the use of stolen vehicles, the guidelines mandate that cars and autos integrated with aggregators should have valid registration certificates and other documents. Safety features, such as vehicle tracking devices, panic buttons and child locks, have to be installed. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has made changes to the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 to this effect.
Based on the guidelines, the State government will frame rules to issue licenses to cab aggregators, paving the way for regularization of cab services. It was also empowered to fix the fare and period for revision. Tamil Nadu Call Taxi Drivers and Owners Association president P Anbazhagan said no legislation can regularize the call taxi business unless a standard mechanism is put into place to control the petrol and diesel price hikes.
“When fuel rates are increasing day by day, how can we work at a fixed fare? Aggregators should not be paid 20 per cent of the ride fare just for facilitating transportation. It should be reduced to 10 per cent.”
Of the aggregators’ share, State governments are allowed to receive 2 per cent of the fare for establishing and maintaining the infrastructure to monitor cab services.
In 2016, the Tamil Nadu State Transport Department drafted rules to regularize call taxi services. However, the proposal has not taken shape as the Centre did not amend the Act then. “The State government will frame rules to implement the provisions of the MV Act with respect to regularization of cab services.
Based on the guidelines, the fare for cabs will be fixed. It is a policy decision of the State government,” a senior official of the transport department said. It may be recalled that the traffic police and transport officials are yet to be allowed to collect the hefty penalties for traffic violations prescribed in the Motor Vehicles Act, which was amended last year.