Their existence under threat from app-based taxi services, Kolkata’s yellow cab operators have decided to up the ante. Thousands of drivers of the city’s iconic yellow cabs will go off the roads on May 26.The Bengal Taxi Association (BTA) has called for a 24-hour taxi strike on that day to protest against “illegal” app-based taxi services. The protest is aimed at the local transport authority, for failing to apply regulations fairly to taxi services.
“The strike is a symbolic protest against the companies that are operating illegally,” said Bimal Guha, general secretary of the BTA. He says vehicles of the cab companies should be brought under the Motor Vehicles Act and their fares regulated by the transport authority.
“The operators do not own any cabs and fix the fares according to their will, which creates unfavourable competition,” he said. The association has already written to the authorities. “We welcome the introduction of technology that benefits passengers, as long as they have licensing and regulatory requirements,” Guha said. The association has almost 30,000 cabs under its umbrella.
Cab operators in other countries have also opposed app-based taxis. Hit hard by Uber, taxi drivers in London, Berlin and Paris took to the streets in protest.
Uber and Ola operators refused to comment. Ola tried to buy peace with local operators in Mumbai by bringing the traditional kaali-peelis also under its network. The city is the fastest-growing market outside the US for Uber, the San Francisco-based taxi aggregator that is fighting regulators in Delhi. The company launched its services in Kolkata last September and has since been increasing its fleet.
Uber received a shot in the arm when the Bidhannagar commissionerate decided to regulate the company under the Information Technology Act. Apart from Kolkata, Uber has operations in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Chandigarh and Kochi in India. Ola has triggered a price war. The company also launched a low-cost service Ola Mini in Kolkata, offering a ride at Rs 9 a km.