The warring taxi operators continue to be steadfast in their demand that GoaMiles should be scrapped immediately before the government makes any moves to install digital meters. Taxi operators, who are already feeling threatened by the app-based taxi service are apprehensive that digital meters would further curtail liberties of charging fares at their discretion. The pre-condition to scrap GoaMiles is irrational as much as the government’s offer to install these free of cost causing an unnecessary loss to the exchequer.
Against the background of a court directive to install digital meters, the government reluctance to go slow and offer sops only highlights the power the taxi lobby wields. Sparks started flying now only because there is Opposition involvement in the issue. On Friday, Congress lent support to the agitating taximen, giving a further push to the protesters. The question here is why are parties using the taxi issue to settle their political scores? Why are taxi operators being used as pawns on the political chessboard? Where are the solutions?
There is an agenda behind every player in this taxi tangle, with no serious moves made to bring stakeholders to the negotiating table, understand the real issues and work out amicable solutions. The dividing lines are visible and so are the agendas. Waste Management and Ports Minister Michael Lobo and Transport Minister Mauvin Godinho have taken contrasting stands and Tourism Minister Manohar Ajgaonkar has taken a round-about turn.
We agree that this issue is about livelihoods and threatens to shut one of Goa's traditional businesses, but on the other side, the State has come a long way and need to keep pace with changing times, especially when it is related to tourism. If taxis are getting a bad name for Goa’s tourism, why is the government failing to streamline the sector? Why is it leaving the app-based aggregator and the hundreds of workforce associated with the service exposed to goondaism? This issue should have been settled on priority, given the fact that it affects tourism, the very sector against which the government is ready to take even Covid risks.
The State government has to take the blame for allowing the taxi issue to fester. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant cannot allow lobbies in his government to control sectors like these. The compromises made by the leadership in placating colleagues will have a telling effect sooner or later, and the taxi issue could take a violent tone, going by the political patronage it is getting in recent times.
Taximen coming out on the roads in large numbers, flashing banners and protesting even in such grim Covid times, even ignoring the north goa collector's order banning large gatherings, certainly calls for a serious hearing. They have to be heard. It would be prudent for the government to get all allied leaders and stakeholders connected to taxis and tourism, including Lobo, Godinho and Ajgaonkar to come on a common platform and hold an open public discourse. Let the people of Goa decide.