Dividing the market between GoaMiles and individual taxis is an impractical idea
No immediate end appears to be in sight to the imbroglio over GoaMiles, the app-based taxi aggregator supported by GTDC. Associations representing individual taxi owners have given the government a week’s time to disband GoaMiles or face agitation. Their grouse is that GoaMiles taxis are charging fares lower than government-notified rates and eating into their business. They say it has forced them to reduce their fares so in order to remain in competition with the app-based aggregator which is hurting their incomes and a decent living. Efforts have been made by various quarters to resolve the issues raised by the taxi associations, but they have not borne fruit. Even efforts made by Chief Minister Pramod Sawant have failed to find a resolution of the conflict as taxi operators have set extremely difficult terms for the government. Despite the government’s assertion that GoaMiles was being operated by Goans the taxi operators want it scrapped. They are not ready to negotiate unless that demand is fulfilled.
The stubbornness of the taxi operators is apparent from their statement after their meeting with Chief Minister Pramod Sawant. After the meeting Sawant said that taxi owners would not object to GoaMiles if their business was not taken away from railway stations, Dabolim airport and designated hotels in the state. Taxi operators denied having made any such commitment. Initiatives taken by some political leaders, including Deputy Speaker Michael Lobo to bring about a resolution have also failed; the taxi operators bluntly told Lobo to mind his business and not to talk on their behalf anymore. For decades, taxi operators have been operating without any rules and regulations. They have been charging fares that do not follow any standards. There is no transparency in their business. Fare meters were made mandatory by the central government. There are court directives for regulation of taxi business. Goa is the only state where taxis do not have meters. There have been numerous complaints of taxi operators overcharging and bullying passengers and yet the authorities have failed to act against them. Politicians of all hues backed the taxi operators in order to capitalize on local votes. Any initiative taken by the government to regulate taxi services was stonewalled by the politicians patronizing the taxi operators. It was in such a desperate situation that an app-based service was thought of and GoaMiles was launched.
Rather than the government setting rules to govern taxi business, it is the taxi operators that are deciding how to run their business, asking the government to follow their dictates. With taxi operators defying the Chief Minister and even making him look like peddling lies with respect to their issues they have left no-one in doubt that their demand for disbanding of GoaMiles is a demand for licence for unfair business practices. The government cannot afford to soft peddle the issue any more as its authority is at stake. Failure of government to act against taxi operators would be seen as surrender to unscrupulous forces.
It is rather strange to note that though taxi operators have themselves been employing non-Goans as drivers and flouting all norms, they are crying hoarse over GoaMiles not employing Goans. As far as their allegation that GoaMiles is promoting non-Goan taxi owners is concerned, it has been proven false as the official data has it that the owners are Goans, though the drivers may be from other states. All efforts should be made to bring about a resolution of the conflict between the GoaMiles and the individual taxi operators. However, both the government and the taxi operators must never entertain an illusion that a ‘division of market’ is the best solution. It would be wrong to demarcate certain areas for taxi operators and certain areas for GoaMiles or any other app-based operator. It is not going to be practical. In a free market, every business has to compete with others in order to get the largest share of the market. Businesses do not grow under a limitation. The government and the individual taxi operators have to find a solution that protects the interests of both the customers and taxi owners.