Most drivers say passengers don’t treat them with respect and there is no platform to air their grievances.
Once considered convenient for passengers and lucrative for drivers, rides via taxi aggregators are now proving to be nightmares for both parties in Tamil Nadu. Issues between drivers associated with taxi aggregators and passengers have long simmered, but they have come to the fore with a passenger and a driver killed in two separate incidents in the span of five days in the state.
On July 3, a 34-year-old engineer, Umendra, with his family from Coimbatore, was returning home to his hosts from a mall on Rajiv Gandhi Salai in Navalur, Chennai. His wife booked the taxi, and when boarding, the driver Ravi asked for the one-time password, or OTP.
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According to the police, there was some confusion in sharing the OTP and after a heated argument, the driver asked the family to get out of the car and share the OTP first.
“Umendra got out of the car and he allegedly slammed the car door which led to a fight between Umendra, his family members and the driver Ravi. In the CCTV footage, Umendra and his family members could be seen beating Ravi and he pushed Umendra down,” Chennai Police said.
As Umendra collapsed at the scene, he was rushed to hospital, where he was pronounced ‘dead’ and police arrested Ravi.
While it is the case where a driver was arrested for killing a passenger due to a fight over OTP sharing, a 30-year-old taxi driver was killed near Chengalpattu by a gang of robbers .
According to police, a four-member gang booked a ride through one of the taxi aggregators’ mobile apps from Tambaram in Chennai to Vallam near Chengalpattu. “The four member gang went to Vallam to conspire on a robbery plan and after sensing something was wrong, the driver, Arjun, asked the four members to complete the ride. However, the gang threatened the driver to leave the taxi with them,” police said.
In this incident, the gang killed the taxi driver by slitting his throat.
Drivers associated with taxi aggregators claim that poor working conditions and the unwillingness of taxi aggregators to ensure the safety of drivers and passengers has led to the degeneration of the entire system.
“You never know who is on the other side. At the time of partnering with cabin aggregators, we are required to submit our documents including Aadhaar, RC book etc through mobile app. Once we are added, we get a booking and it goes on. There’s no human interaction and there’s no room to fix the issues we face when taking bookings,” said K Daas, driver associated with a taxi aggregator for five years.
Explaining in detail, Daas also alleges that taxi aggregators are not following the rules when it comes to passengers.
“Only passengers who fulfill Know Your Customer (KYC) should be allowed to book a taxi. But, late, most of the customers we receive are without KYC and even if we know that a passenger has committed a crime or the assaults of the passenger, it is difficult to file an official complaint. This is the case of Arjun. One of the four gang members, who booked the taxi, did not complete the KYC, but still managed to book a taxi for illegal activity,” Daas added.
Most drivers to whom The Federal spoken, also alleged that passengers did not treat them with respect and that there was no platform to air their grievances. “We are also humans. We own the car and just because we are associated with a taxi aggregator how can we let the customer treat us disrespectfully. Most of the time we only get agitated when they damage our car,” said Udhay, a taxi driver in Chennai.
On the other hand, regular users of taxi services through taxi aggregators’ mobile apps have alleged that drivers only accept rides if they are paid more than the fare quoted at the time of booking.
“Every time we book they call and ask for the location and negotiate an additional amount to what is set by the taxi aggregator and only after accepting all their requests do they confirm the ride. Sometimes they say ‘okay’ on the call and later cancel the ride. Nowadays, the process of getting a taxi through these aggregation apps itself has become more painful,” S said. Sushmitha, a resident of Vadapalani.
Few alleged that the drivers deliberately took a longer route to get extra money for the ride. “Almost every driver does this and I’m sick of it. A few days ago it was only 10 kilometers but the driver took a detour to me by driving 15 kilometers from my pick up point said V Vishwanathan, a Pallavaram resident.
Most regular taxi riders, via aggregation apps, said The Federal that they stopped using the apps and went back to the old way of doing rides with their local drivers.
“Since I started making regular trips through my local taxi driver, I no longer have the headache of booking a taxi. The taxi driver knows me well and I know him too since he is also from the same locality. The cost also seems to be more or less the same as what I used to pay through taxi aggregators before,” said KK Nagar resident Usha Rani, who works at Ramapuram IT park.
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“Forced to ask for more money”
Asked about the excess fares charged from passengers, taxi aggregator drivers complained that almost 35% of their revenue is collected as commission by the taxi aggregator app. “The actual commission is only 20%. But, they add taxes and fines and take 35% of our income. That’s why we are forced to ask passengers for more money,” Udhay said.
Asked about this, a retired DSP from Chennai, who is a legal consultant for one of the taxi aggregators, said that the overall usage of taxis through the taxi aggregator has decreased by 50%. Acknowledging that working conditions for taxi drivers are not good, the retired DSP said aggregators are also working there to create a good working atmosphere.
“Whether it’s the passengers, the drivers or the police, no one is cooperating with us. Take the case of Umendra, our system shows that Umendra canceled the taxi long before getting into the taxi. So we don’t know where the dispute for an OTP came from, it was just the reason given by the passenger. We have also requested assistance from Chennai Police but they are in no mood to help us,” the retired DSP said.
Talking about the murder of the taxi driver, the DSP said it was an unfortunate incident and the taxi aggregation company will give ₹5 lakh solatium to the family of the deceased besides caring the education of the two children. of the driver.