Cab drivers in Hyderabad are upset over the recent decision of the Cyberabad police in the city, which said that they will be issued a challan, of up to Rs 500, for cancelling booked rides.
While the police have cited provisions of the new Motor Vehicles (MV) Act, cab drivers, who claim that they are already under stress from the taxi aggregator companies, are now under further pressure.
Speaking to TNM, Shiva Vulkundakar, President of the Telangana Cab Drivers' and Owners' Association (TCDOA) says, "It is clearly unfair because the drivers are already being fleeced by the companies. Now, there is an added pressure from the state government and the Hyderabad police as well."
Shiva says that the cab aggregator companies allow two or three cancellations in a week for the drivers.
"Beyond that, if we cancel any rides, without looking into the reason, they blacklist us, downgrade our rating and cut money from our account as well. Then there is a long process, where we have to go to the head office and ask for the driver to be reinstated," he says.
"Each day that we waste, our bills pile up, because we have EMIs to pay for the vehicles, house rent and also have to take care of our families," Shiva adds.
The traffic police have said that it took the decision after it received several complaints from consumers over drivers cancelling their ride.
Stating that the government was only looking to 'appease' private corporations and the consumers, Shiva asks, "What about us? We are stuck in between, facing the brunt of everything. If the government was really concerned about cab drivers, it should look into the other aspects of our well being, like regulated working hours, minimum wage and ensuring that we are not exploited by the companies. But no work has been done on that front."
They also point out that as they're treated only as contractors by the companies, the onus of the challan should not fall on them.
"If the vehicle is ours and we are just a contractor, shouldn't the right to reject also be there for us?" Shiva asks.
Syed Nizamuddin, another leader of the TSCBOA, who is also a spokesperson of the Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC), dubs the move 'unethical'.
"Already, there is no business. Most cab drivers end up driving for 12 hours or more a day, just to reach their targets set by the companies. They don't have proper rest and they eat untimely meals. This, in turn, leads to physical ailments and mental stress as well," he tells TNM.
"It is unethical to put more pressure on them. We should reserve the right to cancel a ride. What rights does the police department have in between the contract of the aggregator and the driver? If it is concerned about the public, they can take up the issue with the companies and not against the drivers," he adds.
Recently, on December 18, an Ola bike rider was issued a challan of Rs 535 after he cancelled a ride. The complainant in the case, Sai Teja, head of Social Media and Public Relations, at the Forum Against Corruption (FAC), also agrees with the drivers, at least partially.
RT First Complainant on #ola #bike bike #2wheeler for refusal to Ply For the First time in #Telanagana @CYBTRAFFIC on 18th Dec 2019 Two Wheeler was been Penalized with 500 for refusing to Ply. My Sincere Thanks to @cyberabadpolice for bringing revolutionary changes. @VijayGopal_ pic.twitter.com/kfudW3oDjfâ€” SAITEZAA (@IPS_TEJA) December 19, 2019
"It is true that cab drivers are exploited by the companies and are made to work for several hours at a stretch, without proper pay. But there are also many drivers, who will call the customer, find out where they are going and cancel the ride. Since we can't ignore such cases, I filed a complaint in my particular incident," he tells TNM.
The FAC has also filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the High Court on the issue, arguing that surge pricing by the aggregators was illegal.
"We are also human. We understand that drivers need to make a living. The need of the hour is to regulate the companies themselves and ensure that all laws are being followed and those working for them are given their fair share of rights," Teja adds.