22 Nov 2023  |   06:15am IST

‘Essential’ digital meters: Silent paperweights on Goan taxis, as passengers still pay crazy fares

Unused taxi meters are covered with towels; taxi operators are adamant on not using them; transport department says “All is well” since they “haven’t received complaints”
‘Essential’ digital meters: Silent paperweights on Goan taxis, as passengers still pay crazy fares

ANIL KUMAR MISHRA

PANJIM: When the new Taxi App was launched by the State government, the Director of Transport Rajan Satardekar made it clear that digital meters for taxis are “essential and mandatory”.

“A Taxi App is an aggregator service and taxis run under it. But digital meters are a statutory thing. It reinforces confidence among the people,” Director of Transport Rajan Satardekar told O Heraldo.

The Director however didn’t foresee a situation where digital meters would be “installed” but never used. Check out the anecdote below:

Sam Gupta, a global executive with a tech giant landed at the Mopa airport recently and hired a taxi to Panjim. Sitting on the front seat he noticed a big towel covering an object on the dashboard. Curious he lifted the towel and saw what looked like a meter. But it was shut and dead. Turning to his driver he asked why the meter wasn’t working and got this reply: “We will get fined if we don’t put. So it’s there. We are not bothered. We have taken a pre-paid amount based on our rates from you.”

There you go, in black and white. The over a year-long drawn-out exercise, the protests, the meetings and the negotiations over installing digital meters are all a farce. 

The transport department is happy that digital meters are “installed” and the taxi lobby is fine as long as the meters don’t have to be used. The passengers are still paying exorbitant rates but as long as there are no complaints, all is well.

Taxi operators have another theory, a twist in reasoning. They say that the rates of digital meters are higher compared to what they charge.

A taxi operator from Porvorim said, “Digital meters are being used. But if we go strictly by digital meter rate, then customers will have to pay more. Therefore, many customers start bargaining and we settle for less money as we do not want to lose customers.”

There is however no evidence and basis of this conclusion.

The taxi lobby has its conspiracy theories which all boil down to justifying their refusal to run functioning digital meters. These theories do not seem to make sense. Let’s look at them.

 1 Govt is planning to give the taxi business to outsiders

 Yogesh popularly known as Mogambo, a taxi union leader in North Goa alleged that the installation of digital meters and making it compulsory was a farce as ministers were promoting one app or another.

“The government is collecting around Rs 5,000 for the renewal of meters every year. It is a total scam. They do not have a control room to monitor vehicles. When there is no control room, how will the vehicles be tracked?” he said

He went on to add: “It is a big scam of digital meters, app-based taxis and speed governors. Governor is trying to hand over the taxi business to outsiders by finishing off the local taxi operators.”

Unanswered question: What Mogambo isn’t explaining is how does the taxi business go to outsiders if Goan taxi drivers use digital meters?

2 Digital meters are not of much use, because guests don’t “ask for them”

A taxi operator from Margao accepted that though there are digital meters in taxis they “are not much in use”.

“Nobody is using those meters as hardly any guest asks for the meters. They are quite happy with what we are charging them,'' he said.

 

“It has become an extra burden as every year we have to shell out more than Rs 4,000 for its renewal and we have to get a certificate from the Department of Metrology by paying Rs 500. Even we installed the digital meters by paying more than Rs 11,000 but very few people have been reimbursed the amount,'' he said.

Unanswered question: Firstly, running functional meters is a rule. There’s no question of defying the rule. Also, where is the evidence that guests are happy? Govt too has not informed tourists to pay only by the digital meter.

Yaya Sayyed, president of Margao Tourist Operators Association said, “Very few people have received the reimbursement for the amount they invested in installing the digital meters. If we charge customers according to meter rates, then customers try to avoid us. Therefore, we become helpless and charge them less.”  

Unanswered question: Is there any documentation, correspondence or even social media discussion on a single tourist in Goa refusing the digital meter system? 

 Transport dept’s stand: Unless we get a complaint we assume all is well

The Department of Transport said that it has not received any complaints with regard to digital meters so far.  

“We have not received any complaint from any tourist that he or she has been fleeced. If customers are satisfied then we too are happy. Some taxi operators charge less than the normal fare as they win the trust of regular tourists. We can take action only if we get complaints, an official from the Department of Transport told O Heraldo.”

The assumption that happy customers are either pleased with digital taxi meters (which cannot be since they don’t function) or that cab operators charge “lower fares”, than meters, is simply amusing. The victim continues to be the tourist.

 

 


IDhar UDHAR

Idhar Udhar