RSS affiliate Swadeshi Jagaran Manch has asked Road Transport & Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari to fix surge-pricing limits for taxi aggregators under the Motor Vehicle Act 2019. In a letter to the minister, Ashwani Mahajan, All India co-convener, SJM, has alleged that the taxi aggregators, including Uber and Ola, are profiteering under the ambit of surge pricing. "Just in the last two weeks, we received screenshots where a fare of Rs 2,000 was quoted in Mumbai for a six-minute ride. This is outrageous and plain profiteering by these platforms," he argued. Mahajan quoted a recent survey to indicate that consumers from across the country are facing various issues with app-based taxi services such as Uber and Ola.
Stating the taxi aggregators, which started activities in India in 2014-15 to provide lower cost and convenient taxi services, have started profiteering, SJM called for a 25 per cent cap on surge pricing. Citing the prevalent penalty clauses against customers, SJM wanted the penalty to be levied against the taxi app company or the driver, as the case may be, in cases of abrupt cancellations. The organisation also wanted basic customer service and app features to be standardised to facilitate speaking with customer service centres in case of an emergency.
The letter has come in the backdrop of the decision of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to frame regulatory rules for app-based taxi aggregators under the Motor Vehicle Act 2019. Stating that the guidelines issued by the ministry in 2016 allowed surge pricing to the extent of three times of normal fare, SJM wanted the government to avoid a similar situation.
"We request that the taxi aggregator rules under the Motor Vehicle Act 2019 are made keeping the above public interest in mind. If that is not done, it would be an unpopular move and we may risk the states coming up with their own rules and setting lower limits of surge pricing for taxi aggregators," Mahajan stated.
The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was passed by both Houses of the Parliament during the first session of the current Lok Sabha. The amendment is already facing stiff opposition from various states as it has increased the penalty for almost every offence such as driving without licence, over-speeding, crossing red light and drunken driving by several times. While the government has not indicated any plans to further tweak the law, several state governments - opposition ruled as well as the ones ruled by BJP - are hesitant to notify the new law in their respective states due to the fear of public backlash. The SJM letter is adding to the headache created by the steep increase in the penalty for violations of the Motor Vehicle Act.
SJM has marked copies of its representation to Gadkari, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, consumer affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan and the finance and corporate affairs minister Nirmala Sitharaman.