Karnataka has accused Uber of not complying with its ban on bike taxis and has seized over 80 two wheelers operating on Uber’s platform in Bengaluru since its launch on March 4.
Bengaluru became the first city where both Uber and Ola introduced two-wheeler taxi services, aimed at helping commuters take short trips in the congested cities. Within a day of launch, the government issued a statement saying that bike taxi services operating in the state were illegal and should be withdrawn.
While Ola and other operators such as Ridingo and Hey Bob have put a hold on the service, the government has accused Uber of non-compliance. The state has now issued yet another warning stating that if the aggregators continue to operate bike taxis, they will be seized and legal action will be initiated.
“These bike taxis are operating on white board. We’ve asked these aggregators to approach the Road Transport Authority (RTA) and procure the right permissions to operate. So far we have seized close to 80 vehicles, all of which are from Uber,” Karnataka transport commissioner Ramegowda said.
India’s Motor Vehicle Act doesn’t have a provision for two wheelers to be used as taxis.
The government has said that it could look at allowing two wheelers as taxis on a case-by-case basis but insisted that such service providers apply for permits. In addition, it said insurance firms will not consider claims made for such bikes if they are involved in accidents.
Both Uber and Ola did not respond to email queries seeking clarification on the issue.
Experts argue that by banning bike taxis, the Karnataka government is missing an opportunity to create employment, reduce congestion on roads, and offer commuters a truly affordable means of getting about. Moreover, while there is the issue of lack of permits, they should work towards a speedy change in the law, they said.
“Instead of helping these people (aggregators) operate by making it easy for them to get the permissions and help this sector to boom, the government is doing exactly the opposite. Allowing bike taxis will create employment as not only guys that buy cars can take part in this movement,” said Debabrat Mishra, director of Hay Group.
In the past, Karnataka has also taken issue with Uber’s carpooling service that allows drivers to charge passengers a fee on private cars.
Bike taxis are popular in Southeast Asian countries which have similar traffic congestion issues. The market however is highly fragmented, somewhat like India’s three-wheeler autorickshaws. In an attempt to streamline a similar service, Uber launched its bike taxi service in Bangkok a week before bringing it to Bengaluru.
The service is seen as being cost-effective, since most bikes in India are highly fuel efficient, and can navigate dense traffic much faster than four wheelers or autorickshaws. Moreover, uberMOTO was the cheapest offering on Uber’s platform, with a base fare of Rs 15 and a tariff of Rs 3 per kilometre in addition to Rs 1 per minute for the ride.