by Elton Gomes
Hundreds of drivers employed under ride-hailing apps Uber and its local rival Ola have been on strike in Delhi and Mumbai since Monday, October 22. The drivers demanded higher fares to meet the rising prices of fuel that are eating away their incomes.
The strike has been called by the Maharashtra Rajya Rashtriya Kamgar Sangh. The union’s General Secretary Govindrao Mohite said that the strike will be continued until the demands were met.
The drivers are demanding higher fares amid soaring fuel prices. The drivers are also demanding they should not be suspended based on a single complaint, and that only customers whose phone numbers are linked with Aadhaar numbers be allowed in the cabs.
Why are the drivers on strike?
Drivers are saying that fare prices have not been increased in the face of rising fuel prices. Petrol, diesel, and CNG prices have risen at least 10% this year. In addition, drivers have to bear increasing insurance and maintenance costs.
Drivers say they earn only Rs 5-6 per km, as against Rs 18-20 per km two years ago. Some drivers claim that they were able to earn over Rs 1 lakh per month, but now they are unable to earn even Rs 50,000 now. Other drivers have even cited unfair treatment by Ola and Uber.
“The companies don’t understand the issues drivers face…they have reduced fares when they should be paying a higher rate,” said Sunil Borkar, secretary at Mumbai taxi drivers’ union Maharashtra Rajya Rashtriya Kamgar Sangh, Live Mint reported.
Falling incentives are a problem
A decline in incentives could be a reason why drivers are demanding a hike in fares. When incentives were high, many drivers quit well-paying jobs and took out loans to buy cars with hopes of earning an additional income. However, as the number of cars and drivers increased, the companies decided to scale back on incentives.
Some drivers say they have to put in 16 hours of work per day to generate sufficient income to pay interest on their loans, meet expenses, and provide for their families. One Uber driver, who has been operating since three years and was not part of the strike, suggested that Uber should consider increasing fares to make the situation feasible for its drivers.
Strike likely to end soon
The week-long strike in Mumbai could be see an end on Tuesday evening after the cab aggregators reportedly agreed to a majority of the demands, including higher payments.
After talks were held with the companies on Monday at Ola’s office in Mumbai, the Maharashtra Rajya Rashtriya Kamgar Sangh, which had called for the protest, said “80% of their demands were met.”
The association was to meet the Maharashtra state transport commissioner on Tuesday and “based on the meeting… we will call off the strike by evening,” association secretary Sunil Borkar said, the Economic Times reported.
Drivers’ union to hold talks with Ola, Uber management
Media reports on Tuesday stated that the strike could continue till Wednesday, if the drivers’ demands are not met. “We will take a call on withdrawing stir only after all our after all our demands are well accepted and given in writing in front of the transport chief. Else the strike could continue on Wednesday,” said Maharashtra Rajya Rashtriya Kamgar Sangh general secretary Govind Mohite, the Times of India reported. According to the report, the meeting was to begin at the Bandra office at 4 pm.
The drivers have demanded an increase in earnings along with a higher per km income per trip. Sources said that Ola and Uber could agree to raise the income upto Rs 12 per km for small cars, upto Rs 15 per km for sedans, and upto Rs 19 per km for SUV based on certain conditions.
Additionally, the companies could also look into the issue of maintaining KYC data (know your customer) for riders, cash collection for outstation trips, increasing incentives, etc, sources said, as per the Times of India report.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
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