38-year-old Chandru has been driving an Uber cab in Bengaluru for the past two years. On Friday morning, he was stopped by a few of his fellow drivers when he was on his way to pick up a passenger near Bellandur. He had just completed a ride and was looking to take up the next booking.
A few minutes later, Chandru called the passenger and told the person to take another mode of transport. He knew that many cab drivers affiliated to Ola, Uber and TaxiforSure in the city would eventually block the cabs plying on the road, forcing them to participate in the ongoing strike against their respective companies.
â€śThe association has been striking for many days now. I did take part in the strike all this while, but today (Friday), I felt there was no use waiting for something to happen. The drivers have been protesting, who is losing money? People like me. So, I decided to ply today, but was stopped by a few drivers,â€ť Chandru tells The News Minute.
Drivers affiliated to Ola, TaxiForSure, Uber (OTU) in Bengaluru have been protesting against the companies demanding that they conform to the government mandated fee structure. Among other demands, they also want the company to stop taking new attachments, as they believe that "there's not enough business for existing drivers."
The drivers have been agitating for over a month, organising several protests across the city and boycotting work on several days. On Thursday, during a protest outside Ola office in Murugeshpalya, one of the drivers attempted to kill himself by consuming poison. According to Tanveer Pasha, president of Ola, TaxiForSure, Uber (OTU) Drivers' and Owners' Union, the driver is still undergoing treatment at a hospital in the city.
On Thursday morning, 29-year-old Radhika was taken aback when fifteen men blocked the Uber cab that she had hired. A corporate communications professional, Radhika shifted to Bengaluru only two months ago. She had booked Uber Pool to get to work on Thursday.
â€śAfter I got in, the driver picked up one more woman and we were headed to the Outer Ring Road. When we reached somewhere near HSR Layout, fifteen people walked towards the cab and stopped it. Though I did not follow the conversation that happened between the group and the driver of my cab, I sensed trouble. One of the men put his hand through the window and cancelled the trip on my driverâ€™s device. We didnâ€™t want any trouble and the other woman and I quickly got down from the cab,â€ť Radhika recounts.
Radhika had to take an autorickshaw for the rest of the journey, as she was too petrified to hire another Uber.
Admitting that several cab drivers were forcibly prevented from plying the roads, Tanveer Pasha told The News Minute that it was all for a good cause.
â€śâ€™When most of the cab drivers are taking part in the strike that is being held for a right cause, it is wrong for a few of them to not cooperate. We have not directed our members to resort to violence to stop the cabs plying the roads, but I have given instruction that they must be informed about the strike. There are more than a lakh drivers who are part of the union and I am certain that we have not been able to reach out to all of them. But it is incorrect to not take part in a strike called for the larger good of all drivers. The drivers who are not cooperating are in fact misusing the strike to make money while others are not working,â€ť Tanveer Pasha maintains.
Speaking about the ongoing protest, Tanveer says that the association now has little hope that the government will sort out their concerns.
"Ola representatives have told us that a team from Delhi will arrive here next Thursday to hold discussions with us. The transport department held three rounds of talks, but there hasn't been any outcome. There's no point in not working till the companies are ready to come to a compromise. For now, we have decided to resume work till Thursday. Rest will be decided on the basis of how the meeting goes," Tanveer said.