Commuting in the coming couple of days might get difficult as driver partners of cab-hailing giants Uber and Ola have called an indefinite strike. The strike was called by Maharashtra Navnirman Vahtuk Sena, the transport wing of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, following which other unions also joined in. While this indefinite strike is expected across the country, the impact seems to be less in cities like Delhi and Bengaluru.
In Mumbai, no micro or mini cabs are available for Ola riders, while Uber is only slightly better. In Delhi the availability of Ola and Uber cabs have not been significantly hit.
"We have been informed by the Mumbai Police that they have proactively taken all the necessary steps to ensure the safety of commuters during their cab rides in the city," an Ola spokesperson told Business Today.
An Uber spokesperson said, "We regret the disruption caused to our rider and driver community by a small group of individuals. We remain committed to serving the city, ensuring driver partners can continue to access stable earning opportunities, while giving riders a convenient option to get around their city. The Hon'ble Bombay High Court issued an injunction prohibiting unions, their leaders and anybody else from obstructing the activities of Uber driver partners. We welcome this, and hope that it will enable drivers to stay behind the wheel, something many have been telling us they wish to do. We have been listening to our driver partners all along and are committed to ensuring that Uber remains an attractive entrepreneurial opportunity for them." He also added that the strike has only affected business in Mumbai and Pune, while it is business as usual in all other cities.
The strike has been called primarily because drivers aren't earning enough to make ends meet despite working for long hours every day. According to reports, drivers in Uber and Ola make around Rs 25,000-30,000 every month, which is a far cry from what they were reportedly promised initially.
Sanjay Naik of Maharashtra Navnirman Vahatuk Sena told PTI, "Ola and Uber had given big assurances to the drivers, but today they are unable to cover their costs. They have invested Rs 500,000 to Rs 700,000 and were expecting to make Rs 1,50,000 a month. But drivers are unable to make even half of this because of the mismanagement by these companies."
A disgruntled Naik also accused Ola and Uber of giving preference to the cabs they own. Drivers also claim that they bought their own cars on loans because they were expecting to earn Rs 1,00,000-1,50,000 per month, but are now underpaid.
Another pertinent issue plaguing the drivers is the hike in fuel prices and the companies reducing rates to attract more customers. With the hike in fuel prices, drivers are unable to repay the loans. Moreover, in order to be ahead of their rivals, Uber and Ola have reduced their per-kilometre fare. What used to be Rs 10 per km has been reduced to Rs 6 per km. Moreover, both the companies roll out offers and coupons that allow users to avail discounts, for eg. Uber allows a discount of upto Rs 50 per ride for a couple of rides with their discount codes. To top there, there are also systems in place that riders can use to avail a cheaper fare like sharing the cab with other riders.
Naik also added that the companies are violating permit conditions and that they should also adhere to the norms laid out for yellow-black taxis. "We demand that Ola and Uber taxis agree to the laws by which the yellow-black taxis are run. They are doing business unlawfully," Naik said, as reported by ANI.
We demand that Ola and Uber taxis agree to the laws by which the yellow-black taxis are run. They are doing business unlawfully: Sanjay Naik, MNS on strike of Ola and Uber taxi drivers called by Maharashtra Navnirman Vahtuk Sena in #Mumbaipic.twitter.com/RghCnobT6g- ANI (@ANI) March 19, 2018
However, how much of this strike is due to drivers' own volition is unclear, as a video has emerged of MNS leader Nitin Nandgaonkar breaking the windshield of a cab that was on run as usual.
Meanwhile, notices have been issued to leaders of the union under section 149 of CrPC relating to unlawful assembly. "Notices of section 149 of CrPC have been issued to Sanjay Naik, president, Arif Shaikh and Nitin Nandgaokar of the Maharashtra Navnirman Vahatuk Sena as preventive action. If they violate any orders, they are liable to be prosecuted," Pandit Thorat, senior inspector of Andheri police station said, as mentioned in NDTV.
This article has been updated to include comments by Ola and Uber.
(With PTI inputs)