Two days after the transport authority banned Ola for six months, the state government directed officials to revoke the order, with the transport minister stating the ban had been imposed without his knowledge.
On Friday, the Regional Transport Office (RTO) headed by Transport Commissioner V P Ikkeri suspended Ola’s licence for six months “with immediate effect” for running bike taxis without permission.
Terming the reply provided by Ola on operating bike taxis not satisfactory, the Commissioner for Transport and Road Safety had suspended the licence.
But if you were expecting chaos on roads, you were wrong. No action was taken against the company save for the seizure of two cabs. Worse, news of the ban led to a huge backlash on social media.
On Sunday, Social Welfare Minister Priyank Kharge sent out mysterious tweets, leading to confusion within the Transport Department. “@Olacabs will run their business as usual from today (Sunday). However, there is an urgent need for policies to catch-up with new technologies & also industries too should work closer with Govt to help evolve policies for innovations,” Kharge tweeted.
Asked about the ban, the minister said he meant the ban will be revoked on Monday. “I had urged the chief secretary and senior officials to look into the matter. I was told the (ban) order will be revoked on Monday. Karnataka should provide a conducive environment for innovation in technology, business and investment,” said Kharge, whose ministry has tied up with 21 firms, including Ola, for a rural entrepreneurship scheme.
Then came another twist. Transport Minister D C Thammanna said the ban order, signed by the transport commissioner and three other senior officials, was issued without his approval.
“I came to know about the ban through media reports. They (officials) should have taken approval from me or the chief minister before issuing such an order during times like this,” he said referring to the election code of conduct.
Officials in the Regional Transport Office said Ola submitted a petition on Saturday requesting the government to lift the ban. “A request for payment of fine in lieu of the ban was made. However, a decision will be taken only on Monday,” a senior official said.
Leader of a cab drivers association Tanveer Pasha, who is also affiliated with the JD(S), also waded into the controversy, stating that drivers would meet the Transport Commissioner on Monday to urge him not to revoke the ban. “Ola should be punished for its mistake. We will launch a protest if they revoke the ban,” he said.
With the controversy refusing to die down, Chief Minister Kumaraswamy on late Sunday tweeted that he has authorised the chief secretary to look into the issue.
Notwithstanding the government intervention, the ban has come fire, especially on social media. Besides the online campaign from some cab drivers, the issue had taken a political turn, with Union Minister D V Sadananda Gowda stating the ban has hurt more than 40,000 drivers.