They have raised their objections to the app-based taxi services and have sent out some warnings to the government. Last week, the taxi operators said they wanted that the GoaMiles taxi app operator’s vehicles stop collecting tourists from the coastal belt. In a warning to the elected representatives they said the MLAs of the coastal areas should be ready to sit at home if they are not ready to scrap the GoaMiles app. On January 18, at a meeting with the Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant they reiterated this demand to scrap the GoaMiles app, but refrained from speaking on the issue of installing fare meters in their cabs. The Chief Minister has assured them an amicable solution. The main contention of the taxi operators is that the app-based service has encroached on their livelihood.
The reality, however, could be very different. This is an issue that has been discussed and debated, not just on the street corners and in newspapers but also in the Assembly. During the Monsoon session of 2019, the Assembly debated this very issue not just for half an hour, as had been planned, but the session time was extended so that all MLAs who had something to say on the issue were given a chance to speak, and the discussion went on till almost 11 pm. At the end of that debate, the Chief Minsiter, Dr Pramod Sawant, had assured the House that the GoaMiles app-based taxi service would not be scrapped.
The conclusion of that debate was that the decision to permit app-based taxi service was in the interest of the operators and the people and the State. At that time, the taxi operators had been given the opportunity to join the app for three months as a trial period or even start their own app, which the government had assured it would support. Did the taxi operators who are now again demanding that the government cancel the permission to the app-based taxi service acted on the suggestions of the government? It would be an interesting experiment to try for the traditional taxi operators.
It is pertinent to recall that the demands for app-based taxis in the State came not from the tourists who frequent the State on holidays, but even locals who saw the possibility of riding in a taxi at a reasonable rate over using their own vehicles for certain of their errands. It is clear that people are getting more comfortable with using the net and apps for all services, and that the app-based taxi service is here to stay. Already, in Goa we have a separate service, not the ones that are available in the rest of India, for which a special app is required to be downloaded on the mobile phone. A little competition will improve the service to a great extent. Besides, nothing stops the local taxi operators from competing for business with the app-based operators.
The time has come for the local taxi operators to step up to meet the challenges that technology is bringing. The app-based service cannot be wished away as it will exist now and in the future. The quicker the move to it is made, the better prepared will the local taxi owners and operators be, as at some point they will be forced to make this transfer to technology to survive. Besides, when there is a taxi app and the local taxi operator, it gives the customer the opportunity to choose which service he prefers, and that is important in a free market. The amicable solution promised by the Chief Minister has to consider how technology will change the future of the transport service.