Cabbies' strike begins to hit commuters

2 drivers attempt suicide during mass protest outside Ola's headquarters; no truce in sight

Cabbies' strike begins to hit commuters

Two cabbies attached to Ola attempted suicide during the mass protest by cab drivers outside the company’s headquarters at Murugeshpalya, east Bengaluru, on Thursday. Cab-hailing services in the city were partially disrupted as 20,000 taxis stayed off roads, according to drivers’ unions.

Mohan Kumar (35) was rushed to Manipal Hospitals after he consumed poison. He was moved to Kempegowda Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS) hospital later in the evening. Another cab driver, Srinivas (28), consumed kerosene and poured it on himself around 3.30 pm in an attempt to immolate himself. But police officers and fellow cab drivers pinned him down and took him to Manipal Hospitals.

Sensing that the situation may get out of hand, Halasuru subdivision ACP Mohammed Sajjad Khan intervened and asked Ola representatives to resolve the matter immediately.
Around 2,000 cabbies gathered outside the Ola and launched a protest seeking the fulfilment of various demands. They want the cab aggregator to increase their incentives and stop fining them Rs 500 fine for cancelling rides among others. H E Somashekhar, president of OTU Chalakare Sene, said they were backing the protest. “The drivers are protesting voluntarily as they have been pushed to the wall by the cab-hailing firms. Right now, all the drivers are united. The city has more than one lakh cabs. On average, 25,000 cabs ply on the roads at any given point in time. This number will come down drastically in the next few days,” he said.

Ganga Bhavani R V, a woman cab driver, said she would support her colleagues and would not drive until the matter was resolved. But some drivers, such as T Selva Kumar, said they were being coerced into taking part in the protest. “I was driving when a group of taxi drivers came to me and asked me to support them. I gave in as they threatened me. I am not striking work but supporting the demands,” he said.

Private taxis and cabs run by other companies are making the most of the protest as the number of cabs on roads begins to shrink. Nilesh Sangoi, CEO, Meru Cabs, said, “In case of Meru Cabs, there is no problem as we do not give any incentives to our drivers. And that is the reason why our cabs are a little expensive. Our taxis are plying as usual.”

While Ola did not immediately respond to an e-mail sent by DH seeking comment on the protest, Christian Freese, General Manager, Uber, Bengaluru, said they were in “constant touch” with the drivers and resolving their issues.

H D Kumar, Additional Commissioner, Transport Department, had this to say, “The problem is between taxi drivers and the companies. We tried to be the facilitators and resolve their issues. But the matter has not been resolved. We called them for a dialogue also, but some did not come. We are not checking or seizing any vehicles for car-pooling. We are discussing the matter with the Central government as well as the Law Department. The expert committee has given some recommendations, which can be implemented when the transport rules are amended.”

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