It is close to a month and a half since the taxi lobby of Goa, aided and abetted by their benefactor fighting for their cause, Calangute MLA Michael Lobo, managed to stall the installation of speed governors in their taxis by February 28.
Subsequently they have asked the government why it has not yet made good its promise of approaching the Supreme Court, stating that speed governors are not needed in Goa for Goan taxis as they are not associated with too many accidents. This tantamounts to asking the Supreme Court to reverse its own decision, just because one State government does not want it.
But even as the taxi lobby periodically sends out signals that it will not just oppose speed governors but also digital meters, unless the speed governors issue is sorted out – to their liking of course – or threaten to paralyse Goa if app-based taxi services are introduced by the Goa Tourism Development Corporation, let us not lose sight of where the government stands officially. Governance moves on government decisions and notifications and not on imaginary IOU slips issued to broker peace with those who have held the State to ransom.
On January 25, the State Transport Department issued a notification extending the deadline for installation of speed governors for taxis till July 18. It stated that, “The Goa government exempts all the transport vehicles having four wheels whose gross weight does not exceed 3,500kg and which are used for carriage of passengers and their luggage, with seating capacity not exceeding eight passengers in addition to the driver seat from the requirement of fitment of speed governor up to July 18, 2018”.
There is no ambiguity here. The time given for fitting speed governors is July 18, 2018. The notification was issued barely four days after the strike was called off. The government has not yet approached the Supreme Court with a prayer not to enforce the installation of speed governors. Hence there is no basis for the taxi owners to assume that speed governors do not have to be installed. After all there is a clear government notification with a deadline.
At this juncture, the basics need to be reiterated. Court decisions, notifications, cabinet decisions and Assembly assurances are sacrosanct. Cabinet decisions are ratified by the Assembly. Notifications are then issued. If these systems do not prevail as per the law and the Constitution, India and its States will function like banana republics. Can the attempt to force a decision in favour of the taxi lobby thorough threats, coercion and refusal to follow systems ever work?
Digital meters have to be installed. Tenders are floated and finalisation needs to be done. Technology participation has been sought by GTDC to work on a tourist taxi app on the lines of Ola and Uber. These are all good signs that Goa is moving head. Let us keep at it and base all our discussions on decisions taken and if these decisions have to be challenged they need to be done officially, legally, transparently and above all justifiably.
And here’s a postscript. The tiny state capital of Mizoram, Aizawl introduced Ola cabs last week, after the entry of the app-based service provider in Shillong in Meghalaya. Mizoram, a State with a hilly terrain and unsure mobile links, and with a population less than Goa, has gone ahead and joined itself to the international highway of modern day transportation, with the locals seeing this as an opportunity to earn. None of the propaganda about locals losing livelihoods, or outsiders coming in was witnessed. This was Ola’s second public-private partnership in the north-east region this year after it signed a MoU with Assam Transportation Department for a river taxi service in Guwahati.
Tiny pockets in a corner of India have taken right decisions for their people and utilised natural resources to augment transportation. Why can’t Goa have a similar MOU to start river taxis?
Goa needs to simply learn from these initiatives and decide what is best for the state and its people, and forget threats and muscle flexing that come in their way.
But there is a bigger elephant in the room, which needs to be tackled. There is an air of helplessness among the common people of the State that when it comes to making a choice between public welfare and the welfare of specialized pressure groups linked to voting potential, sections of the government will side with the later. And it is this belief which is like a kick in the solar plexus.
The taxi drivers are indeed sons of the soil. But so are the rest of the Goans who also want transportation to be available when they want it, how they want it and with a fair pricing structure, in the way it is done in the rest of the world. How can Goa claim to be an international tourist destination, if the ambassadors of tourism, the taxi drivers, are not willing to adapt to systems which are established all over the word? How can Goa claim to be different when the smallest of towns in this very country have app-based or radio cabs , with the locals of the area benefitting?
We cannot afford a compromise which is against the interests of what is right and what people want at the cost of bending backwards to please a section which is seemingly politically influential. This path is self-destructive and anti- Goan and a government which prides itself on following the mantra of Goenkarponn, cannot allow an issue to be handled in a manner where the rest of the land is hurt, disappointed and betrayed.