How over-regulations are killing Uber, Ola and stifling public convenience in India?
Shame, Sham and Shady
I literally dread leaving office in the evening (not that I love being in the office late ;)) as I can’t push people around and beg / request / plead auto-wallas to ferry me home. Certainly, I do not seek a free ride but then there is desire of auto-walla to ferry passengers at least 10 kms to make a killing for the time they have spent idling outside offices for want of “long-distance” passenger. Yes, as per rule book auto-wallas can’t say no but I believe, I have only heard “No”.
Anyways, my hubby dear comes with a chest thumping idea of booking radio cabs in the morning itself for the day’s evening return from office. I told him it’s futile but knowing him he insisted and took upon himself to arrange for one. First day, Meru took the booking but in the evening declined that no cab is available – underlying reason being that no cab is willing to ferry for a distance of 3 kms. Anyways, the second day, he tried again and voila, Meru sent a cab. He was elated with joy and self-praise, insisting that I should be more planned etc..etc… etc to make life comfortable. Well, I board the Meru cab and at the end of the ride, I am asked to pay around Rs 220 (don’t remember exact no.) for 2.5 km ride. I was really sad and discussed the same with Meru’s customer care. I was informed that I have used service of Meru flexi and as per regulation minimum charge is Rs 200. I informed my hubby and he also raised this issue, went on social media, wrote an email to transport department, highlighting that we asked for a simple Meru and never for Meru Flexi (we were not even aware what is a Meru flexi service). Meru's call centre people reverted that flexi service is for short distance travel.
Well upon research, we realized that this “Meru Flexi” service is primarily designed for outside city travel; hence there is a minimum fare of Rs 200. Seems innocuous and logical but then how it is being misused to loot gullible passengers (recently my hubby was duped in Delhi by Meru Flexi – You can’t refuse taxi at last minute – always a trade-off miss the flight / train or take the flexi cab). Meru is smartly using this “Flexi” service for intra-city travel and more specifically for short hauls and making a killing. Which driver will not like to be paid Rs 200 for 2-3 kms ride? The language on Meru’s website reads as follows: “Cabs will get allocated for trips purely based on availability. Priority will be given to the Meru Cabs under Radio Taxi License”.
Questions that I am forced to think about:
- Are regulators not aware of such pits-falls? If they can’t think then why do we go through such elaborate regulatory regime and spend tax-payers money?
- Why can’t there be a simple directive that if taxi is used for intra-city travel, normal fleet cab charges will be made applicable?
- Is there a bigger game at play?
Anyways, this is not the end of story. Rather, this is just the beginning.
What’s the Shame:
To upstage this collusion & super-normal profits made by fleet cabs (nearly Rs 27 per kms as against Rs 10-20 per kms charged by app-based cab services), market forces came to play in form of Uber, Ola etc. However, this is not acceptable to Maharashtra Government and they have now decided to “Regulate” such app-based cab services. Link to relevant news article is-
What’s the Sham:
What has government achieved by Regulating Auto, Kaali-peeli, Meru, Tab etc? All are making super-normal profit and a total chaos on the road. Ask a normal citizen and he/she will have their own daily agony of not being able to get an auto. I myself have waited for even an hour with more than 20-30 “empty” autos / taxis passing by but no one is willing to take the passenger for a short distance or over-charge for long distance.
Where is law enforcement, where are regulators and where are government agencies when the normal citizen is being “tortured” on a daily basis. However, now when Ola & Uber are growing on unprecedented pace – due to systematic failure – regulators are coming into the picture on one or other pretext.
I just submit that “LET MARKET FORCES PLAY OUT AND LET CONSUMERS DECIDE THE BEST FOR THEM”.
Or, is there a bigger game? Who owns maximum autos, taxis and contracts with fleet cabs? Are these government officials, locals, friends etc or there are some other gains? If not, then why such forced regulation
Why are the market forces not allowed to play out? Ask any driver of these fleet cab and you will hear a sordid tale wherein they have to pay ~Rs 1,300 per day. Why are such hefty charges are allowed to be recovered from poor drivers? Why not regulate their working hours? Why not ensure their quality of life? Why these regulations were created which are actually hurting public then providing better services? No one is challenging measures related to public safety such as driver verification etc but such regulation as are being designed are killing market forces. Is it not against the ethos of procurement process adopted by GoI or as a matter of fact any state government? Then why public is not allowed to take the similar advantage of competition?
I would request you all to ponder on each of the questions and act upon the same to ensure that we get better and economical services. If Political parties think that we are voting-minority then let them think this way “only” till next elections.