Transport officials are pretending to be customers and booking bike taxis so that they can impound the vehicles when they arrive. Private bikes can’t be used as taxis, according to rules now in force in Karnataka.
About 500 bikes attached to Ola and Rapido have been at the receiving end of this crackdown. The service has been operational in Koramangala, Yeshwantpur, Indiranagar, Jayanagar and KR Puram.
A majority of passengers were Metro commuters, who used it to travel between home and the station. Karnataka is not ready to legalise bike taxis, according to an official at the Jayanagar RTO.
The government has directed the transport department to seize bike taxis and penalise them, another official says. Owners are being fined Rs 5,000 by the courts for putting private bikes to commercial use; the RTO levies separate penalties if the documents and the condition of the vehicle don’t meet their stipulations.
Officials say it is illegal to run taxis using white-board vehicles. The apps have started the service without permission, and it is our job to stop them,” an inspector says.
Bike taxi services are registered only on apps, and the RTO has no information about those who ride the vehicles.
Of the 85 vehicles seized by the Jayanagar RTO, 60 were released after the owners paid penalties.
“The safety of passengers and the condition of bikes are matters of concern, and we will continue till we seize the last bike taxi plying in Bengaluru,” the official told Metrolife. He reckons bike taxis have been operating under the radar for two years.
White board, yellow board
Bike taxis have no permission, but then, under the current rules, the government can give no permission either. The rules in Karnataka clearly haven’t caught up with newer models of providing commutes within the city. Goa encourages bike taxis, and many ply in that state. Bike taxis in Bengaluru have white boards, while all taxis must sport yellow boards, an RTO official says. “These vehicles are owned by individuals who have tied up with apps. We have nothing against the service, but they are breaking the law,”
Bike taxis are also being seized in Mysuru, Chennai and Coimbatore, according to an RTO official.
Bike owners’ plight
Metrolife got in touch with two riders whose vehicles were seized. Harish (name changed), who had worked with Rapido for two years, was in for a jolt when his bike was seized by Jayanagar RTO officials on the very first day of his signing up with Ola. Riders are free to sign up with any number of app-based services. Harish says he had checked with Ola and Rapido if they had all the permissions before joining.
“They said everything was in place and I signed up. Business was pretty good, and I was doing 3 trips a day,” he told Metrolife.Harish got a bike request from near the RTO office in Jayanagar. When he reached there, officials seized his bike.“I did not know what was happening until they filed a charge sheet,” he says.
Kumar (name changed) says that he wasn’t aware he needed a yellow board to take passengers.“I had previously worked with Rapido. After I registered with Ola and my bike wasimpounded, I paid a fine of Rs 8,000, which the company reimbursed. I didn’t take the risk of registering and taking passengers again,” he says.
Both Rapido and Ola assured him they would get his bike back should it be impounded again.
If private vehicles are used for “hire or reward without a valid permit for being used as such,” its registration can be suspended under Section 53(1)(b) of the Motor Vehicle Act.
Metrolife reporters visited RTO offices in Yeshwanthpur, Kasturinagar and Jayanagar on Friday and Saturday for a reality check. All of them are cracking down on bike taxis.
Ola refused to comment on the RTO action. Its app says ‘Try Bike Beta. Ask for a helmet. Ride safe.’ A spokesperson said that this indicated service is a ‘controlled pilot in parts of the city.’