The Ministry of Home Affairs has advised all state governments & union territories to ensure that operations of online taxi services like Uber, Olacabs and TaxiForSure among others are stopped until they register themselves with state administrations, Home Minister Rajnath Singh told the Rajya Sabha.
Interestingly, since transport is a state subject under the India constitution all state governments don’t necessarily have to follow the Ministry’s advise.
Yesterday, Uber had been banned from operating in Delhi after a Uber driver was arrested for allegedly raping a passenger. Following this, Delhi Transport Department announced that except licensed radio taxi services like Easy Cabs, Mega Cab, Meru Cab, Chanson Cab, Yo Cab and Air Cab, all web-based taxi service providers were banned from operating in the national capital till they get a license from the department.
It’s strange that the government isn’t viewing these companies as tech platforms that aggregate taxi operators and that sets a dangerous precedent. Consumers, especially those in urban centres across the country, are also likely to be inconvenienced by this move as many of them depend on these taxi service providers for day-to-day commuting.
That being said, there is a slight difference between taxi aggregators like Uber, Olacabs and TaxiForSure & other web-based aggregators/marketplaces like Flipkart or Snapdeal. Unlike the Flipkart’s of the online world, Uber and its ilk don’t provide buyers (passengers) with details about the seller (taxi operators). So, one could argue that the liability does lie with the cab service providers.
It remains to be seen how state governments handle the implementation of this directive. Will registration and approval of online taxi service providers be fast-tracked to ensure least possible inconvenience to consumers? Or will these companies be turned into scapegoats so that the government can say that it took immediate & stern action? Also, when will the government address the core issue of women’s safety?