7 Days On, No Relief From Ola, Uber Strike: Commuters Battle Sky High Rates

Fri, 17 Feb 2017 14:04 IST

A strike led by drivers' unions in the capital demanding better pay from Uber and Ola has paralysed the ride-hailing services that have grabbed business with their cheaper fares.

7 Days On, No Relief From Ola, Uber Strike: Commuters Battle Sky High Rates
On Ola and Uber's apps, there were unavailability of cabs at times and sometimes.

Amidst the failed talks between the Delhi government and striking drivers of Ola and Uber to break the deadlock even as the city administration warned of strict action against any violence, Delhi High Court directed authorised signatory from Ola and Uber to hold a meeting with Sarvodaya Driver union to peacefully resolve issues.

Delhi High Court also asked joint commissioner of traffic police to ensure peace on roads and stop instances of hooliganism. The next hearing is scheduled on February 28.

SDAD vice-president vice-president Ravi Rathore, who was admitted to hospital, said that the union's representatives today met Transport Minister Satyendar Jain, but the talks could not reach any conclusion.

A section of drivers of the union may disrupt traffic movement in some parts of the city after their two leaders, who were on the hunger strike at Jantar Mantar since Friday, were admitted to RML Hospital in view of their deteriorating condition.

A strike led by drivers' unions in the capital demanding better pay from Uber and Ola has paralysed the ride-hailing services that have grabbed business from traditional taxi and rickshaw operators with their cheaper fares.

Commuters had to pay astronomical fares as the strike called by Sarvodaya Drivers Association of Delhi (SDAD) entered its seventh day. Commuters faced delays even as the city state's government laid on extra buses to help them to get to work after most drivers stopped taking bookings via the smartphone apps that connect them to nearby passengers.

There was shortage of taxis on the capital's roads during morning and peak hours of the strike. It was the first big confrontation between trade unions representing taxi drivers in the Delhi region of 25 million people and the two ride-hailing players, which have been ramping up services in India's $12 billion taxi market.

On Ola and Uber's apps, there were unavailability of cabs at times and sometimes, fares were higher than normal. Strike leaders earlier said that they were demanding an increase in incentives, provision of adequate insurance policies and shorter working hours for drivers.

Uber later won an injunction in the Delhi High Court against two taxi unions that backed the strike to prevent what the company described as intimidation of its so-called driver partners, most of whom are private car owners and are not unionised.

"In the meeting, the minister sought time to address all their demands, but drivers were not ready to accept the offer. It has been seven days of their strike and that they did not want to give more time to government now."As I and our union president Kamaljeet Singh Gill are admitted to RML Hospital, we don't know what our drivers will do tomorrow. From our side, the strike is still on," Rathore said.

"These companies are cheating us. They do not pay us on time and expect us to work like slaves," said Jatindra Singh, a senior member of the New Delhi Taxi Union. Singh said 35 unions representing nearly 4,000 drivers were backing the strike.

Meanwhile, the transport minister has warned of strict action against those drivers indulging in violence, a day after striking drivers torched a taxi in Indirapuram.

"I will request Lt Governor to take strict action against drivers who indulge in violence which will not be tolerated at any cost," Jain said.

Asked about commuters being overcharged by autorickshaw drivers due to the strike, the minister said that he appealed to all striking drivers not to overcharge passengers.

Thousands of drivers are on strike since February 10 in Delhi-NCR demanding an increase in fares from the existing Rs 6 per km and also want the 25 per cent commission the app-based aggregators charge on every booking be discontinued.

Delhi Autorickshaw Sangh and Delhi Pradesh Taxi Union have already cleared they would not support strike as their business was getting affected due to app-based taxi services.

San Francisco-based Uber has focused on India as its most promising market outside the United States since it merged its Chinese operation into market leader Didi last year. It operates in 28 Indian cities and has 200,000 active drivers.

Homegrown rival Ola calls itself India's most popular mobile app for transportation. It is present in 102 cities and offers rides in 450,000 vehicles.

(With Agency Inputs)