Heavy Surge Expected From Ola, Uber During Durga Puja In Guwahati
GUWAHATI: With the commencement of Durga Puja, what Guwahatians fear the most is getting stuck in traffic jams for hours together in the name of pandal hopping. In spite of the city police’s efforts at maintaining smooth flow of traffic by altering routes for commuters, traffic jams resulting from the unplanned city roads always remains a matter of concern during every festival time.
Last year however, it was observed that there was lesser traffic because Guwahatians preferred commuting by app-based taxi services like Ola and Uber. Therefore, there were lesser vehicles on the roads. But this year there will be issues as a very limited number of app-based services are expected to be available on the roads and surge pricing is expected to be at the maximum.
“Earlier, there were around 15,000 taxis enrolled with Ola and Uber but now it has reduced to around 8,000 out of which 50% of the vehicles will not be available during the Puja for various reasons,” said president of All Assam Cab Owners’ Association, Ismail Ali, adding that many cabs are not plying because they are preparing their documents after the new Motor Vehicles Act kicked in. Also, many drivers will be on leave to celebrate puja in their own hometowns and villages.
The regular commuters have already started feeling the pressure as according to them, such regular Ola and Uber passengers have already witnessed a huge surge in the price of the app-based cab services.
“I was trying to book a cab to go to Down Town from ISBT which is around 14 kilometres and the fare which was showing was a whopping Rs 800,” said a student Meren Jamir adding that usually it takes around Rs 140.
Similarly, passengers across the city are complaining about huge surge in the fares and the app-based taxi fares have not been regulated.
A source in the transport department talking to G Plus said, “Till now the app-based taxi service and the fares charged by them are not regulated.”
Sources also revealed that the Centre is likely to permit cab aggregators to charge customers up to only three times the base fare during periods of high demand on a new set of regulations being drafted for the industry. Ride-hailing apps including Uber and Ola have long argued in favour of surge pricing to regulate the demand and supply of cabs on their platforms.
The service providers, whereas, claim that algorithms monitor demand and supply in real time all over the city. When the systems notice an increase in wait times (because there aren’t enough drivers nearby), surge pricing automatically kicks in. This has two effects: people who are not in a hurry wait until the fares fall thereby reducing demand; and drivers who are nearby go to that neighbourhood to get the higher fares thereby increasing supply.
The service providers claim that the majority of the money generated due to higher fares goes to the driver-partners.
But the taxi drivers allege that the surge amount is not given to them but taken by the company.
“Whenever there is huge traffic, Uber and Ola charge more from the customers but the money is not given to the drivers but taken by the app-based companies,” said Ismail Ali. He also said that previously the app-based companies used to take 26% of the total fare but these days they take 36% and during a surge they take more.
A source in the transport department revealed that a committee is being formed to study the fare module of the app-based cab services and the government is mulling on regulating the services. But the process is pending as even the Centre is working on a regulation plan. The proposed rules for cab aggregators by the Centre follow the new motor vehicle law, which for the first time recognises cab aggregators as digital intermediaries or marketplaces. Earlier, the rules did not recognise cab aggregators as separate entities, causing firms such as Uber and Ola to operate in a grey zone.