CHENNAI: Thousands of commuters across Chennai were forced to pay exorbitant fares for OLA and UBER call taxi cabs after a large number of cab drivers affiliated with Centre of India Trade Unions (CITU) went on strike on Wednesday.
The Tamil Nadu Call taxi drivers and owners association affiliated to CITU Chennai Maha Nagar Motor Vahana Thozhialar Sangam called for a strike demanding the government to introduce standard auto meters for call taxis and revise the government order relaxing the eight-hours per day restriction on call taxis. They claimed that cab drivers are getting exploited by cab aggregators.
On Wednesday, with about 40,000 vehicles participated in the strike, OLA and UBER introduced the surge price early morning. This led to increasing cab fares across the city up to three times the normal fare.
"I paid Rs 250 for an OLA cab to go to Thiruvalluvar nagar of Thiruvanmiyur from T Nagar Burkit road which normally charged Rs 80", said R Siddharth, an advocate, who since an accident has been regularly availing cab services.
The condition of many other commuters who depend on cab services for their transportation was no different. Particularly, those commuters heading to Airport, CMBT terminus, Chennai Central and Chennai Egmore railway stations for outstation travel are worst affected.
The cab fare from Chennai Airport to CMBT increased to Rs 450 as against Rs 230 in normal days. "I have two huge luggage bags which I cannot take into buses. For a travel from Thiruvanmiyur to CMBT, I was charged Rs 260 as against Rs 140 which I regularly pay," said R Sharadha, who took an Ola cab.
The protesting cab drivers urged the government to constitute a committee to fix standard meter fare for call taxis in Chennai. The OLA and CAB take 27 per cent of earnings as commission and they struggle to meet their family demands.
"Cab fare Rs 6 to 9 per kilometer was too low. As more than 50 per cent cabs are running on rentals, while 25 per cent cabs purchased through bank loans. It's nearly impossible to earn Rs 3000 a day if we work only for eight hours. Currently, a driver had to ride for about 250 to 300 km a day within Chennai city to earn Rs 2000. After spending for fuel we earn Rs 450 to Rs 500 a day," said V Athimulam, Treasurer of Chennai 'Thozhargal' unorganized car driver association.
The Tamil Nadu Call Taxi Owners and Drivers Association president P Anabazhagan said the government should fix standard fares for call taxis in Chennai and revise the permit rules to allow two drivers for cars so as to operate tourists taxis for more than 12 hours.
Thousands of drivers who protested near Chepauk stadium raised slogans demanding the government to constitute a committee to protect the welfare of about 60,000 families involved in the business.