THE GOAN NETWORK
Around 15 taxi drivers from across Goa from the Association of Tourist Taxi Owners of Goa (ATTOG) on Monday alleged that the government's Goa Miles app-based taxi service was illegal.
A document that the Association obtained under RTI from the Directorate of Transport, shows that the Directorate of Transport has not approved of any taxi hailing app in the state. Going by this, the Association said that since Goa Miles is a taxi-hailing app, and has not been approved by the Directorate of Transport, it is illegal.
A press conference was held in this regard at the Menezes Braganza Hall in the city.
They further said that the app had only taken off without approval of the Transport Department because the Director of Transport was the same as the Director of Tourism– Nikhil Dessai, and it was the Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) that had launched the app.
Several members of the ATTOG including Kundan Kerkar, Furkhan Shah, Ruskin Mascarenhas, Anthony D'Souza and Vincent Carvalho said that the government had shown favoritism towards the app as just before the app was launched, the government suddenly changed the rules for becoming a taxi driver.
"Before the app came on to the scene, all taxi drivers had to have a "badge" for which two character certificates, and a thorough police verification process had to be done. Now, anyone, even with a criminal record, can become a taxi driver without acquiring this "badge." This has all been done to favour those drivers registered with the app," said Mascarenhas, adding that there is no safety measure in place before a taxi driver is designated, and in the end, if a crime against a woman takes place, all taxi drivers in the state will get a bad name.
Further, the ATTOG has alleged that practically all the drivers registered with the app have come from outside the state with no knowledge of either the local language or the local tourist attractions.
ATTOG members demanded to know how the government could bring in people from outside Goa to give them taxi jobs when there wasn't enough "giraik" for the local taxi operators. "In the end, the Goa Miles drivers end up making more business than us, they come to our villages and take our business even as the government cannot provide us with any other forms of employment," said Carvalho.
The tourist taxi owners further said that since Goa Miles was illegal, the government couldn't put out official rates to be followed by the app. However, the ATTOG drivers were following the rates laid out in the government gazette.
When asked about why they hadn't joined the app-based taxi service, the taxi drivers said that the government had never taken them on board before coming out with the app.
While demanding scrapping of the Goa Miles app, ATTOG said, "If the government is not willing to scrap the app, the least they could do is make it compulsory for the drivers of Goa Miles to have at least 25 years domicile in Goa."
While they've already met Chief Minister Pramod Sawant once in this regard, they said they have fixed a second meeting to be held in the coming days.