Karnataka government’s decision to increase the basic fare for cabs services in Bengaluru has come as a relief and with concerns for both drivers and customers. The increase, which is up to 92%, comes days after a debt-ridden cab driver died by suicide at Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport.
As per the state government order, the minimum fare was increased to ₹75 for small cabs and ₹150 for luxury taxis for the first 4 kilometres. Earlier, the rates for these categories were ₹44 and ₹80 respectively.
While some cab drivers call this a welcome move considering the recent inflation, customers feel this could discourage people from taking cabs and rely on private vehicles. Cab aggregator drivers’ association members said they will hold another meeting with the transport department for more clarifications on the new changes.
Tanveer Pasha, former President of Ola and Uber Drivers Association told Hindustan Times that the revised rates have not come into effect, despite the government order. Pasha said as per the communication from the state transport department, the new fares will be implemented from Monday since Friday was a government holiday.
“This is a welcome decision because cab drivers have been suffering for a long time. When companies were charging ₹8 per kilometre, it was the driver who was suffering. Autorickshaws in the city charge ₹13 per kilometres and the cab driver, who has to pay EMIs for cars that cost up to ₹10 and pay almost ₹90 for diesel, was getting a bad deal. The companies could keep the rates low to attract business, but the problem is that discounts were not coming from the companies’ pockets and the drivers were paying for it,” said Pasha.
He added that the cab driver died by suicide because he was struggling to pay off the car loans and fear the seizure of his car. On Tuesday, a 34-year-old cab driver, Pratap, set himself ablaze in his cab. Pratap was with an airport taxi service of Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation. His death led to protest demanding regularization of the cab fares since cab services, like the one owned by KSTDC, was charging up to ₹24 per kilometre while Ola and Uber were operating under ₹10 per kilometre.
While the association is happy with the decision, cab drivers have apprehensions about the new directive. Manjunath Gowda, driver attached to cab aggregator said that he fears that the increase could have an adverse effect on the demand for cabs. “From the city to the airport it takes ₹600-900. With the new rule, it could be ₹1,200 to 1,800. Will people opt for cabs in a big question,” said Gowda.
Rohan Thomas, graphics designer based in Bengaluru, who uses cabs for his daily commute said that the revised charges would burn a big hole in his pockets. “Unlike New Delhi or Mumbai, Bengaluru doesn’t have a good public transport system and cabs are the most preferred mode of transport. I’m really concerned about the new move. Losing customers like me can’t be good for cab drivers also, right?” he asked.
The fare structure is classified into four categories as per the cost of vehicles, with A being highest (more than ₹16 lakh) and D being the lowest (up to ₹5 lakh). The largest increase was given in category C ( ₹5-10 lakhs), which is the most prominent category among cab services. Ramesh Kalburgi, another cab driver said that instead of the steep increase in the fares, the government should have increased the drivers’ share in the earning from a ride.
A senior official in the Karnataka Transport Department said following the incident at the airport, the cab drivers had approached the government. “They pointed out that there was a disparity in fares. The government also believes that cab drivers who are contributing to the development of the city were at a disadvantage and within days we issued the revised rates. The last time they were updated was in 2018,” the official said.
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