Taxi gangs of Xaxti-pur

The headline is inspired from the latest Bollywood blockbuster Gangs of Wassepur. The stranglehold of the taxi mafia in South Goa – Amchi Xaxti – evoke similar images of muscle flexing and territorial control. This is Goa’s worst PR exercise.

Neshwin Almeida | JULY 28, 2012, 12:00 AM IST
Taxi gangs of Xaxti-pur

For 85-year-old Byculla residentIrene Lobo, the trip back home to Aldona was a nightmare. When her son’s familywas down from Canada, planning to spend a week in Goa, she opted to spend fortythousand rupees and drive down, rather than buying flight tickets for Rs 30,000,“because of the exorbitant rates charged by the taxi guys in Goa, especiallythe triple fare charged at night”. While tourists in Goa complain of exorbitantfares charged by the taxi drivers, even the resident Goan rarely consider taxisas an option to commute. The taxi is turning out to be Goa’s worst PR exercise.

Taxis in Goa are of two kinds, thewhite tourist taxi that is available at hotels, beaches or any other locationand the black and yellow taxis that are available at bus stands, airports andrailway stations. But the biggest problem is the taxi owner’s mafia along thecoastal belt from Colva, Benaulim and Varca till Cavelossim-Mobor. This regionhas a history of taxi operators threatening tourists and hotel guests. Attimes, the threats get violent.

The genesis of these gang wars isthe need to secure business by protecting their own turf because they can’t getonto others’. Where is the state in this, or the image it portrays to others?’The simple answer is, “Nowhere!”

Roque, President of Benaulim TaxiDrivers and Owners Association says,  “Allthis started because the Margao taxi operators do not allow us to come into thecity, park our vehicles or pick tourists, while the Cansaulim-Dabolim touristoperators harass us if we drive into the airport and pick guests.”

According to Jose Afonso, the vice-presidentof the South Goa Tourist Taxi Owners Association, “We are forced to charge cheaper fares because anothercartel of jeep operators exists in Sanguem. All this mafia and goondaism amongdifferent taxi groups is definitely hitting the tourism industry,” says Afonso.

Self-drive car and bike rentalsadd another dimension to this conundrum. “Although most private rentals haveyellow and black commercial number plates, illegal rentals do exist andauthorities turn a blind eye on the issue.”

Caught between the South Goa taxioperators’ war are the innocuous tourists, who at times are left to fend forthemselves. And even as the tourism department is toying with the idea ofinstalling GPS and meters in the taxis, it remains to see if the governmentwill at all be able to reign in the marauding taxi operators.

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