The call for strike had a partial impact on the roads even as many autos were seen plying on the roads
Reports of overcharging also trickled in as many commuters complained that auto drivers were charging hefty amounts for ferrying passengers
The protesting auto rickshaw drivers have been demanding a complete ban on bike taxis saying that such services were impacting their livelihoods
It was a day of high drama on Monday (March 20) as auto rickshaw drivers hit the streets in Bengaluru, demanding a complete ban on bike taxi operations in the city.
Backed by 20 auto unions and organised by the Auto and Taxi Drivers Union, the city reportedly came to a halt as auto rickshaw drivers observed a 24-hour strike. While The Hindu reported that there was a partial impact on the roads, News Minute noted that many autos were seen plying on the roads even as the unions called for a complete shutdown.
As per reports, the auto drivers were seen blocking roads in different parts of the city and even tried to take out a march from KSR Bengaluru Railway Station to the Chief Minister’s official residence.
As the situation aggravated, Bengaluru Police picked up more than 500 protesting auto-rickshaw drivers from across the city. However, some protesters were then released post 5 PM on Monday.
The protest also saw reports of overcharging trickle in as many commuters complained that auto drivers were charging hefty amounts to ferry passengers.
Meanwhile state Transport Minister B Sriramulu was quoted as saying, “I have directed officials that auto drivers should not be troubled. The officials have been asked to take strict action against such bike taxis. I request the auto drivers to call off the strike.”
Bike Taxis Platforms In A Pickle
The protesting auto rickshaw drivers have been demanding a complete ban on bike taxis saying that such services were impacting their livelihoods. Seeking action against these ‘illegal’ bike taxis, the unions have also claimed that bike taxi aggregators were exploiting youngsters and students by luring them with incentives while risking their lives to offer such services.
Auto drivers also argue that they have to seek permits, pay taxes and are regulated by the state government. However, they also claim that bike taxis have no such obligations and hence charge lower rates to customers.
The unions have also flagged issues of passenger safety during such rides. A case in point was an incident that took place in Bengaluru in November last year after a 23-year-old woman was allegedly raped by a bike taxi driver and his associate.
On the other hand, ride-hailing cabs cite bike taxis as generating more employment in Bengaluru and a complementary form of transport in the city that is ailed by long traffic jams.
This comes amid sabre-rattling between the Karnataka government and ride-hailing apps. Previously, the state government had ordered a complete ban on operations of auto services operated by these players, which was later challenged in the court by Ola and Uber.
After much bickering, the two sides again sparred after the state transport department sought to cap fares of auto aggregators which saw both players demand a higher threshold and led to another crisis.
As traffic jams become the norm, bike taxis have emerged as a cheaper and easier form of movement, especially in metro cities. Within this industry, Rapido, Ola and Uber dominate the space and account for most of the market share.
However, the recent past has seen confrontations between these ride-hailing apps and state governments. This comes days after the Delhi government banned bike taxi services in the national capital but the services continue to be freely operational in Delhi. With the matter only expected to escalate, it remains to be seen whether the local government will bring these bike taxis under their ambit and will it institute a full-blown mechanism to regulate the space.