With taxi unions unilaterally deciding to go off the road on January 19 for an indefinite period, the process of them disengaging with the need to make Goa tourist friendly, appears to be complete.
At the onset the issues they have raised are genuine and need to be addressed with no further delay. The alleged harassment of RTO officers, who according to taxi owners, do not give fitness certificates and other documents and instead take their licences and don’t clear their cars, is reason enough for taxi owners to see red. But it is still not reason enough to go off the road.
The threat or decision to go off the road seems to be to avoid installing speed governors which cap the speeds of taxis. To be fair on taxi drivers, the responsibility to restrict speed should be on all drivers and not just taxi drivers. But where taxi associations are going wrong is resorting to blackmail in the middle of the tourist season. And it is actions like these which strengthen the belief that taxi owners are anti- regulation or control, something which has been clearly witnessed in the resistance to installation of digital taxi meters.
This is also not the first time this threat has been enforced. In April 2016, more than 15,000 taxi operators along with several auto-rickshaws went on strike demanding a ban on rent-a-cab and related businesses, defying the Essential Services Management Act (ESMA).
Thus, taxi associations need to be transparent about the real causes of going on strike and further crippling the movement of tourists. They have for long demanded monopoly over tourist businesses and refused to allow alternate forms of tourist transportation. Is there any other state or town in the country where radio taxis, wanting to come in, have been not allowed in by tourist taxi associations? Is there any other city or state where cabs on rent are opposed. The question of deciding if they are legal or illegal businesses has to be decided by the state but here again there cannot be blanket ban on rent a cabs because the private taxi owners oppose it.
The government should respond to this strongly. Firstly it should take into account their grievances against the RTO so that the paperwork needed to run their businesses should not get held. Secondly all kinds of illegal transport operations should be shut. But this is what tourist taxi operators have to follow: a) Install digital meters and continue their operations only if all rides are metered with rates fifty percent lower than the average exorbitant fares that are being charged, b) Introduce app-based taxis. Local tourists taxis should be given the right of first refusal before taxis from outside Goa are engaged c) Rent-a-cab services like Meeru cabs should also be allowed to function in the state.
The bottom line here is that the consumer - the tourist as well as the local, is king. Local tourist taxis can easily participate in all the different categories of taxi services and cannot under any circumstances, disrupt services. The frustration and anger of the common tourist against tourist taxi operators is brimming over.