The government may have conceded to the demands of the taxi operators fearing a political backlash, but while doing so it has also dealt a telling blow on app-based cab aggregator GoaMiles. The resistance offered by the government crumbled under the political weightage of the issue and Chief Minister Pramod Sawant appears to be left virtually a helpless spectator.
The chief minister brokered peace between two of his warring ministers -- Transport Minister Mauvin Godinho and Waste Management Minister Michael Lobo -- also a strong taxi lobbyist and proponent of the free meter scheme, but it is apparent that the 360-degree turn on the issue lacks reasoning, and is done without any study of the practicalities and case-scenarios.
Taxi operators will be provided with free digital fare meters, along with data services. There is also a fare hike approved. There's also a mandatory clause to have a badge with 15 years of domicile criteria and there's a consideration to withdraw permit cancellation notices. Surprisingly, the app-based cab aggregator is also asked to fit a digital meter, where their services and fares are based on an app, and not on a meter.
Ironically, the most contentious decision is to keep the North Goa coastal belt out of the purview of GoaMiles. Lobo has asked taxi operators plying at all taxi stands and hotels across Goa following a queue system to shun Goa Miles. Restricting the mobility of an app-based service is going to create major law and order issues, and it comes as a surprise that Sawant and Godinho have endorsed an arrangement that will have no standing in the court of law. Creating individual circles of queue system and imposing restrictions on the cab aggregator would lead to constant confrontations because coastal areas dominated by other leaders like the Calangute MLA will also follow a similar system to placate their vote-banks. By agreeing to such an arrangement, the government has only exposed GoaMiles to further conflicts and threats to the lives of those in service.
The underlying issue with the taxi lobby is that they see GoaMiles as a threat, and for all the allied issues they have put forth like faulty meters and battery running out, the one common objective has been to ground the cab aggregator. It is unfortunate that the government which is bound by High Court directives doesn’t have the will to comply with its directives. This speaks a lot about the political undercurrents at play and it also speaks about the political weightage the taxi issue has.
The arrangement defined by Lobo is not in the interest of a healthy business model, neither does it do justice to the preferences of the tourist. The transport minister contends that there are a few “rotten apples” in the sector, but then, it’s a pity that the government can't stem the rot. Sawant has bestowed freebies on taxis as a Ganesh Chaturthi goodwill gesture, but sops which tank the treasury upfront by around Rs 34 crore cannot be merely considered as a festive takeaway. At a peak political season, this is seen as a price paid for the electoral insurance of a few directly linked to the taxi sector.