Taxi drivers, who, recently are on the main highlights in the news, are definitely affecting Goa’s tourism prospects. It has being giving a wrong image to people at large. Tourists are facing this problem at the airport itself. Tourists already have a fear of taxi operators in the state therefore this issue should be resolved immediately, so that tourists have a smooth stay in Goa. But will this issue be solved easily? Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar who himself comes from the coastal belt of Pernem with other MLAs Dayanand Mandrekar, Vasco MLA Carlos Almeida, Benaulim MLA Caitu Silva, Canacona MLA Tawadkar, Betalbatim MLA Mickky Pacheco, who, apparently turn a “blind eye” to the taxi mafia as they have to maintain their vote bank politics and therefore have done little to resolve the issue due to which even domestic tourists are turning to other states. Here are some of the incidents, where one might feel devastated regarding the taxi drivers in Goa. Read full report here.
It’s a meter down situation everywhere in the state. Martin Joseph was left in the lurch when his client, a Chinese national was at the receiving end. Joseph in his police complaint on September 11, 2016, explained how his client, who had come here ahead of the summit on a security assignment, was left high and dry by the highhandedness of the obstinate taxi men’s union.
The Chinese national Tao Bin from Air China was stalled at the Zuri White Sands Hotel and was delayed for his all-important meeting at the airport only because his driver arranged by the tour operator was abused and was not allowed to pick him up by the taxi union. Later in the day, the tour operator had to drop Tao to the KTC bus stand and he had to take a local taxi from there to his hotel in Varca. It was an incident that left Goa red-faced.
Tao’s was not an isolated incident. Ankita Sharma who was on a holiday with her father had booked with the Mahindra Group of Hotels at Varca. Since the Taxi rates to go to Palolem were exorbitant, she decided to hire a car.
“The rent-a-car owner from Mobor is well-known to us since we have hired cars from him frequently. Initially, he allotted us his sister’s personal car with a white number plate. He had warned us that the taxi mafia will otherwise deflate the tyres at night if I take a usual rent-a-car with a commercial number plate.
“Later in the day, a taxi kept following us till Assolna. It overtook us and blocked our way. The cabbie reportedly threatened us in Konkani to hire a local taxi or else we would have a harrowing time. We followed suit in fear and lost so much time and money because the taxi fare was exorbitant and we had to pay for the rented vehicle too,” explains Ankita who went through this plight despite explaining to the taxi owner that she was on a vacation since she was recovering from a cancer surgery.
In another case, Mritunjay Mohan, who was in Goa with his entire family of 29 members and had booked a full tour package, including sightseeing. On the last minute, the local taxi drivers outside his hotel assaulted and abused the drivers of the cars he had hired and his trip was botched for the day. Next, Mohan was forced to hire five Innovas and travelled from Varca to Colva, a short distance of six km by Innova white taxis at a whopping cost of Rs 10,000. Mohan told us that his entire holiday was a nightmare and it burnt a huge hole in his pocket.
Guests being beaten and harassed during a wedding ceremony in a starred hotel, tourists abused and assaulted and threatened. Rented bikes and car vandalized. Holidayers cutting short their trips because of threats of taxi owners. Abuses hurled at tourists at shacks at night clubs because they didn’t avail the taxi services is so common in Goa that every tourist is international or domestic, all are aware of Goa’s shamed hospitality, thanks to the taxi operators.
“I once went to pick up a renowned doctor, a friend of mine, from a hotel in Cavelossim to bring him to my hospital in Margao. Taxi drivers gathered me and asked me where was I taking him and I said to my hotel. They told me to leave the area and that they will charge him and drop him at my hospital. As I was adamant, they let me go but only after I paid them the exorbitant taxi fare and I took the doctor in my own car. I was left embarrassed and looted,” explains Dr Carmo Gracias. But the question is when will the government intervene?
“The system needs an overhaul revamp. In the current scenario every hotel has a taxi union posted outside and we’re supposed to inform our guests to avail of the taxis from there. We’re unable to reject the taxi union or else they won’t bring and won’t allow guest to check in at our hotels. The government needs to come with a law to abolish all taxi unions having nexus with certain hotels and force the taxis to park at the stands or pick passengers on the run. That will make the system competitive and abolish the Taxi goonda raj,” explains Vincent Fernandes who works at a starred hotel at Majorda.
“I paid Rs 3,000 from the airport to Nerul to my hotel last Christmas and the taxi driver asks me, Sir Will you visit the casino? I said … Yes, I may? The cabbie snapped back at me and said it seems you have enough money to spend at casinos and hence you will not feel the pinch of paying me Rs 3,000. Sadly, I paid him that price for a short 45 km while I paid the same for my airfare. Isn’t it unfair,” explains Rajat Jadev who feels he may never come to Goa because of the taxi nuisance.
“I remember, last time the taxi issue was taken up by the media, the Church body for social justice, supported the taxi drivers saying that it’s a traditional occupation and hence they shouldn’t be troubled. Also, these taxi unions have a cartel with politicians. But it is high time the nexus is broken and tourists are given a fair deal,” explains Teo Faleiro from Colva who’s restaurant suffers because he doesn’t pay hafta to a nearby taxi union hence the taxi drivers refuse to bring guests to his restaurant.
“The taxi union is deeply rooted into the corrupt system holding politicians, hotels, restaurants, shopping centers and vendors at ransom and makes a buck from all areas. They make a fast buck and do fewer trips and prefer to play cards and gamble more often and do just two trips a day. This is a fact and can be checked by anybody,” says Jeevan Rasquiha who runs a small eatery in Colva.
Taxi driver Rockson Dias from Utorda explains that he would love the system to be more competitive and get rid of this corruption. “But now it’s all different. There are illegal tour operators who accept bookings in dollars and have a setting with people in Russia and Britain who work here on tourist visas. These operators charge huge fees in dollars or pounds and work with no permits or government nods. With them in the system and illegal rent as vehicle operators, we’re forced to stay alive in the system and also hike our rates. The government on the other hand has never taken a step to change all this, explains Rockson.
“I have worked during IFFI, Defence Expo, Lusofonia Games, BRICS summit and many international events and have been party to bringing in hired vehicles from Maharashtra and even Delhi. Even for my tourists’ guests, sometimes I arrange for drivers from Mumbai. All these work out to be cheaper for me than ferry clients in a taxi in Goa! But continuously, I face the ire and wrath of taxi operators. I live in constant fear of guests being attacked. It’s a sorry state of affairs when it comes to commute tourists and it’s even something discussed at International Tourism Trade and Business Fairs. I wish the government could eliminate this taxi mafia,” asserts Joseph Velho.
Strong opposition to Ola and Uber, unwilling to set up meters in their vehicles are just some issues. The taxi union has blocked bridges and highways and nobody has stood up against them.