Amend rules to help car-pooling

At a time when an uncontrolled surge in the number of vehicles plying on roads in major cities like Bengaluru has reduced the movement of traffic to a snail’s pace causing great hardship to lakhs of commuters every day, the high-handed action of Karnataka’s Transport Department against the ‘ride-sharing’ services of cab aggregators is pernicious, senseless and against public interest. It is clear that the police and the department have miserably failed to come up with any meaningful solution to the choking traffic, which has reduced the speed of vehicles to less than 10 km/hr on main arterial roads, and increased the stress levels of the riders. One would have expected the government to heartily welcome the move of taxi technology aggregators like Uber and Ola to introduce ride-sharing. Car-pooling, over the last two months, has been gaining immense popularity and helping to reduce vehicular congestion and pollution. That being the case, the Transport Department should give up its myopic opposition to pooling of taxis, return the impounded vehicles and suo motu come up with amended rules to facilitate this people-friendly service.

Interestingly, apart from Bengaluru, Uber has begun operating the car pooling service in five other cities – New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad – but has encountered problem only in Karnataka’s capital. The main objection came from the Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC), which felt that the ride-sharing would affect its share of business. The authorities claim that the aggregators’ permit did not allow the passengers to be picked up and dropped at multiple points and hence penal action was taken. Transport Minister R Ramalinga Reddy should immediately intervene to put a halt to such bureaucratic stupidity and encourage more aggregators to enter car and bike pooling. The government should initiate other conscious measures like improving public transport and speeding up the connectivity of suburban trains to decongest the roads.

If ride sharing is one aspect, there are several other sticky issues between the app-based aggregators and the government which need to be resolved amicably. The High Court has upheld the Karnataka On-demand Transportation Technology Aggregators Rules, the first of its kind in the country, which requires the aggregators to do due diligence of the vehicles and the drivers who are contracted, besides making it mandatory for them to have ‘panic buttons’ in vehicles for the commuters to use in times of emergency. The government should ensure that the cap on pricing, which is Rs 19.50/km for air-conditioned vehicles and Rs 14.50/km for non-conditioned ones, as upheld by the court, is strictly enforced.

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