Ride-sharing ban comes into force today, but Ola, Uber noncommittal

Neither firm says it will discontinue service

Ride-sharing ban comes into force today, but Ola, Uber noncommittal
App-based cab aggregators Ola and Uber are likely to withdraw ride-sharing from Friday onwards as transport authorities warned of a crackdown on the “illegal service”. The authorities had on Monday given three days to the two companies to shut down ride-sharing.

Uber held a press conference on Thursday, hours before the deadline expired, where the company’s general manager (Bengaluru) Christian Freese  maintained that the service was totally legal. “We will meet the officials and convince them about our stand,” he said and launched an online petition which drew nearly 14,000 supporters.

The company’s move indicated that it will run the service — UberPOOL — defying the government’s warning. However, despite repeated queries, neither company stated whether the service will be discontinued from Friday onwards. Freese said car-pooling was the best solution for decongesting traffic on Bengaluru’s roads. “UberPOOL has saved more than 4.4 lakh litres of fuel and cut over 1,000 tonnes of carbon emission,” he claimed.

Transport Commissioner M K Aiyappa, however, told DH that both the companies had “failed” to convince the officials about the legality of their service. “We had advised them to make representations to the government about bringing a change in the law. They didn’t pay heed. We know the benefits of car-pooling. But we have no option but to seize vehicles that offer an illegal service,” he said.

Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy also noted that the government was not against car-pooling. “We encourage services that benefit people and welcome initiatives that decongest traffic. But everyone has to work within the ambit of the law,” he said.

The minister said two representatives of a cab aggregator had approached him on Thursday. “I explained to them that legal backing is required as the service involves safety issues. What happens if a woman sharing the ride is molested? The state government was blamed after incidents of molesation on New Year’s Eve. Who will take the responsibility if something bad happens during ride-sharing,” he said.

Social media was abuzz with many people expressing anguish at the ban on car-pooling. One user, Veerendra Mishra, tweeted thus, “Good service like pooling should be supported not opposed and stopped!! (sic)”
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