Despite all the efforts made by the state government for the installation of the meter on the cabs in Goa, the figure has reached hardly 1% with 109 out of the 21,277 taxis operating in the state have fully completed the installations. What about the rest, and why they have not yet gone ahead with the installation of the meter? Here is the complete report.
It has been a month and more since the announcement of the ultimatum served by the Goa government to the taxi drivers regarding the installation of digital meters in their cabs. The picture is not as positive as was hoped for however, there does seem to be a sense of acceptance among the taxi community this time around.
As per a report by the Navhind Times, Less than 1% of the taxis have been fitted with digital meters so far. According to data, only 109 out of the 21,277 operating taxis have completed the installation. In addition to that, not many cabbies have registered their vehicles for the reimbursement scheme.
In order to facilitate the move, the state government has arranged for a reimbursement scheme whereby the cost of installation will be borne by the state for all those cabbies who adhere to the stipulated deadline. At Rs.11,234/-, the fitment will come with one-year free maintenance and one-year data and online monitoring charges including GST.
However, this does little to please Goan cabbies which are up the ante about the order. The Incredible Goa team spoke to several taxi drivers in the state in an attempt to understand their side of the story. For most taxi drivers, there was one common complaint- “We do not have enough money to get the installations done”.
Damodar, who has been running his taxi business, says that an EMI scheme where the government gave the meters right away, and which could be paid off gradually would have made much more sense. “If I had the money to finance the installation myself, why would I want the government to pay me at all?” he said.
Owing to the lockdown and the extremely tough blow that the entire tourism sector has borne, it increases the plight of the taxi owners who have had close to no business over the past year. “We have families to feed, our children’s school expenses to pay, and our car EMIs to pay off. In such a case, Rs. 11,000 is a very big amount to afford,” said another taxi owner who has 3 cars under the loan, but no business.
Taxi drivers claim to be already plagued by their loan EMIs, often being at the receiving end of threats from banks to repay their loans or surrender their vehicles, despite being more than halfway through the repayment.
The drivers are also apprehensive owing to a lack of clarity on the subject. “In case my meter stops working, where do I go? Can the Government promise us service centers which will promptly fix the issue within 2 hours for me so that my trips will not be compromised?” Such is the nature of their queries.
Clearly, the cabbies do not have full faith in the state’s ability to implement the new system thoroughly and fear that no one will address their grievances in the future. Many also complained about the isolation in which the new notification was passed.
“They should have taken us into confidence instead of dictating ultimatums to us in this manner. They have not yet announced what the new fares will be, why is discussion and consultation missing in a democracy?” questions Mohammad Hani who has been operating his taxi for the last 16 years.
Earlier in May, the government had also issued a notice inviting public feedback on the topic of new fares for taxi rides. The last time these rates were updated was in 2014 when the fuel prices were around Rs.52/Litre. It now stands at Rs.96/Litre. This is also one of the reasons why taxi drivers are unhappy with the government’s decision.
Finally, the taxi community claims “neglect” from the government in the entire period of the lockdown. “Pilots, fisherfolk and so many other workers were given compensation while also being allowed to work during this time. It was only us who had a complete shutdown of business and yet were not supported in any manner. If you can’t help us, at least don’t add to our misery,” said another.
It is a common expectation among the folk that ahead of the tourist season which is expected to open in full swing this time around, after a deep pandemic slumber, the government should support them as ambassadors of the Goan tourist industry rather than bringing down their morale in these ways.
Those opposing the move are running a huge risk as the state is firm about not renewing the permits of those taxis which fail to complete the installation within the stipulated amount of time. Moreover, these individuals will also not be able to avail benefits of the reimbursement scheme issued by the government.
The directive called for a phased manner of installation. The eligible taxis have been segregated into 5 different groups based on the last digit of their number plates (for instance, 0 and 1, 2 and 3, and so on). Each group has been given a window of 23 days starting July 1st.
At the culmination of the groups’ respective stipulated periods, the taxis failing to complete installation will end up having their permits canceled. The last group, i.e. taxi numbers ending with 8/9 is set to end on October 30th.
The notification by the state government on May 19th followed a directive by the Goa bench of the Bombay High Court. The court came raining down with displeasure on the government for failing to stand by its word despite multiple assurances and deadlines. Each time, these plans could not be realized owing to strong contention from the Taxi Lobby.
Even this time around, two taxi groups — from North and South Goa respectively — visited the directorate of transport head office at Junta House, Panaji on Thursday and expressed their grievances to the department officials and demanded that the fitment process be deferred, as reported in an article published by TOI.
“There is a high court directive to install the meters and a deadline. We don’t have the kind of discretion to stop the process,” transport director Rajan Satardekar said. The decision of the state seems immovable, while the unrest in the taxi community is palpable, only time will reveal how this saga concludes.