Till now they were only attacking the fellow drivers engaged into the Goa Miles app but the recent development has revealed a case of Taxi Drivers intimidating the police force in their police station itself.
According to the reports, the local tourist taxi drivers taking the law into their hands, in the wake of the introduction of the Goa Miles based app service, one wonders whether public sympathy is still with them. Roughing up the men in khaki has raised several eyebrows. Have they gone too far? Goa responds with a resounding yes. To assuage and bring a solution to the problem, as the serious dialogue between all stakeholders, it would seem, is the need of the hour.
While most people were heralding Sao Joao on Sunday, local tourist taxi operators were creating a scene of their own.
According to a herald (Café) report, around 100 local tourist taxi drivers/ owners stormed into the Anjuna Police Station at 2 pm and in a blatant disregard for the law, they tried to prevent the police from protecting the Goa Miles drivers/owners. They demanded that police protection for this vulnerable section be dropped. The police were held captive in their office for almost 6 hours. The perpetrators left only once the police clarified that they were protecting Goa Miles drivers only if they were attacked.
Taking the law into one’s hands is a grievance in itself and then attacking the guardians of the law is a crime. From their reactions to these unwarranted actions, the local Goan is truly appalled at the situation and has condemned their actions. The common consensus is that these local taxis charge exorbitant rates and a taxi-app, which charges much less, is the need of the hour.
Having actually had a first-hand experience of this harassment, Marine Engineer, Lenny Guilherme Crasto narrates, “I’m a frequent taxi user, once while travelling to Varca, the tourist taxi drivers actually stopped us and asked where are you’ll from and whose taxi is it….? Such aggressive behavior is dangerous.” Pointing out to the exorbitant fee of Rs.1500 these local operators charge from the airport to one’s residence, he says these illegal activities need to be brought to a halt.
President of Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG), Savio Messias, is firm that police should not succumb to such pressure. Local tourist operators he points out have to operate from their residence as per the law.
However, they have illegally created stands near tourist-centric places. “They themselves are breaking laws, and are demanding protection from the police. Whereas Goa miles are not operating from any stand, it’s an app; when they are called they go,” he said, adding that panchayats have been aggravating the problem by interfering in the matter and now taxi drivers are assuming the role of law protectors.
Condemning the attack on the police, Avelino de Sa, President of Disability Rights Association of Goa, deemed GoaMiles app based taxi service the need of the hour. “App-based taxis are the need of the hour. App-based taxis will increase business for locals for taxi drivers as 13% of the population i.e. 10% elderly and 3% persons with disability and pregnant women are dependent on taxis for their mobility due to inaccessible buses,” he told Herald.
Against the use of any violence to solve an issue, Entrepreneur Pruthai Pai, says if this goes unchecked, tomorrow they could attack passengers of Goa Miles too. But she is sympathetic to their cause too.”From a local’s perspective, it’s a conflicting debate because at one side I feel that Goa Miles is a better option, but the Local taxi drivers are not wrong, they are losing their business too.”
People have also wised-up to the fact that they have local political backing. “Definitely some political leaders are involved, otherwise why do you think these taxi owners are apparently taking law in their hands?” queries student Joel Dias.
To bring a solution to the matter, it first needs to be viewed and understood in its entirety.
In its editorial, Herald reported that the government ‘s resolute support of GoaMiles taxi app, even offering financial support to those who join has, inevitably, drawn a lot of flak from the local tourist taxi drivers.
The government it seems will not relent, even in the face of rising resentment and attacks on GoaMiles taxi drivers and the recent brazen storming of the Anjuna Police Station. “We will neither buckle down to any sort of pressure from vested interests nor bog down to their demands to scrap the app-based taxi service. I request the local taxi operators who have not joined the initiative to sign up on GoaMiles, to join us,” said Goa’s Chief Minister, Pramod Sawant.
The imbroglio seems to worsen with its political tint and a clear rift among politicians themselves on this issue. While the Chief Minister staunchly supports it, other MLAs of the ruling party have tacitly supported it by not opposing it. While Dy Chief Minister seeks a win-win situation, Dy speaker, Michael Lobo, MLAs Churchill Alemao and Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco are in favour of the taxi operators.
To understand the mindset of the local tourist taxi driver, one needs to look at the operation patterns in the past and why they feel that GoaMiles will be detrimental to their business. And for these doubt and fears to be alleviated, they must be taken into confidence and discussions must be held.
Essentially, the ruling party should have done what Congress did last week in this respect. In their meeting with the taxi drivers, it is clear that the drivers want the ruling MLAs to pay heed to their doubts and address them.
It stands to reason that the government cannot just arbitrarily introduce the app and expect taxi operators to fall in line. The introduction of GoaMiles may have come in the wake of the local populace including tourists complaining about the exorbitant rates being charged by local operators, but there are several issues that still remain and it prudent that the taxi operators are given a fair hearing, in the interest of all, before such measures are taken.
It must be remembered that the local tourist taxi business is a traditional one here, which flourished with the booming tourism industry in the 1980s. Their claims of out to ‘kill the Goan taxi driver’ needs to be assuaged by the fact that the app registers only Goan owners.
Their grouse is that the GoaMiles fares are not as per rates published in the government gazette, while they charge the notified rates. By this reason, the question arises whether they are overcharging and if the government is at fault then? This aspect needs to be addressed on a war-footing, to clarify their introduction of the app which claims to charges less fare.
Serious dialogue it seems is the only way out and the government needs to take cognizance of this. It’s the by-rule of every democracy.
To reiterate, as the Herald Editorial suggests, a meeting between taxi app service operators, operators and the government, where the government would act as a mediator to settle the issue, is of vital importance here and now.