Bengaluru Ola, Uber drivers say new aggregator rules don’t offer real solutions

A few cab drivers in Bengaluru that TNM spoke to believe that implementation is key, something they do not seem confident about.
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The new cab aggregator rules put in place by the Union government last week don’t bring any real solutions to problems faced by drivers, cab drivers and driver associations in Bengaluru said. The Motor Vehicle Aggregator Guidelines 2020 announced by the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways last week included measures aimed towards benefitting drivers. This included a cap on the commission levied by a cab aggregator at 20%, and a minimum 3 km charge (base fare) to compensate for distance travelled and fuel used by a driver to pick up a customer.

The guidelines also mandate cab aggregators to ensure Rs 5 lakh insurance to drivers, not exceeding a 12-hour shift per day and more transparency of how the aggregators’ algorithm works, allowing the drivers to see the share they are getting in each trip.

However, a few cab drivers and associations in Bengaluru that TNM spoke to believe that implementation of these guidelines by the state governments, and ultimately by cab aggregators, is key, something they do not seem confident about.

“Whatever guidelines they may bring, there will be some loopholes while implementing and the aggregators will use it and ultimately there won’t be any benefit. We have seen this happen several times before,” Vijay Kumar K, a taxi driver from Bengaluru said.

The new rules cap the percentage of fare that an aggregator can receive at 20%, which means at least 80% has to go to the driver. However, the prevalent commission rate is already 20%, and drivers have been demanding that commission be reduced from 20% to 5-10% for months now, especially taking the pandemic impact into account.

According to Tanveer Pasha, President, Ola-Uber Drivers and Owners Association, the claim of this benefitting drivers is a hollow one, because the new rules also permit aggregators to charge a fare 50% lower than the base fare.

“On its own it looks very nice but say there is a scenario where we are to get Rs 20 for each kilometre and we have a trip of 7km. Now as per the new guidelines, the aggregator can reduce it by half, making the overall earning Rs 70. This would have otherwise been Rs 140. Now 20% commission leaves us with Rs 56, and taking into account GST deduction, we are left with Rs 53. Add to this Rs 25 for diesel. So ultimately we are left with Rs 33. This calculation is excluding the depreciation and services to the car. Now how does this make it better for us?” he asks.

Shaik Salauddin, National General Secretary of the Indian Federation of App-Based Transport workers (IFAT) has also appealed to the government to reevaluate the 20% commission. 

“We would appeal to the govt to reevaluate the 20% commission for cab aggregators and check if it can be lowered further as the drivers are suffering from not only the  pandemic but also from rising fuel prices and high handedness of the insurance agents threatening to repossess our vehicles,” he said.

Drivers have also long complained about the long working hours they are subjected to in order to be eligible for incentives that depend on a certain number of rides. However, the new rules require aggregators to ensure that drivers are not logged in for more than 12 hours and mandate a 10-hour break if they exceed 12 hours.

However, drivers say that they will have to work for long hours if they have to be eligible for incentives.

“Breaks are just an eyewash. We are not crazy to work for long hours without reason. Even we have families and homes to go to. The reason we work that long is because we hope to complete enough rides to get incentives. And sometimes just as we are nearing the target, the rides suddenly stop coming to us. If the government really wants us to get enough rest let them prevent such manipulation by the app,” Anand, another taxi driver from Bengaluru alleged.

For drivers in Bengaluru, their main demand is that they be given worker status and receive benefits that an employee of the organisation gets and feel that any other measures are mere appeasement and won’t be very effective.

Aditya, the president of Bruhat Bengaluru Taxi Drivers Union said, “Until drivers are considered workers, no guideline will be of any use. We must be considered workers of these companies and we too must receive benefits like fixed working hours, overtime, ESI and PF.”

Aditya is pinning his hopes on the code on social security that looks to bring such benefits to gig workers.

“There is still a lot of uncertainty in the system. If labour code becomes applicable to us, then real solutions can be worked out as the role of the union, employer and the government becomes clear. Without this, no real solution can be achieved,” Aditya adds.

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