Drivers associated with online cab aggregators Ola and Uber are striking in Chennai, report The New Indian Express and Deccan Chronicle. The publications say that around 40,000 call taxis and tourist taxis will be off the road as the drivers seek intervention from the government to regulate app-based taxi services.

The reports said that around 32,000 cabs were associated with either Ola or Uber while the rest were associated with other aggregators such as NTL, Fast track, and Friends. Uber currently has 4.5 lakh taxis on the road across India while Ola says that it has around 8 lakh taxis across 110 cities in the country.

Drivers told the publication that Ola and Uber are taking a commission of up to 27% of their earnings a day (a number which tallies with MediaNama’s deep dive into driver issues with the companies). They added that they want to companies to reduce the commission to 7% of their earnings instead.

Driver protests have been increasing over the last year with the latest call in December in Mumbai. This came in the in the backdrop of the Maharashtra government saying it will fix both minimum and maximum fares for app-based taxi companies during the winter session of the state’s legislative assembly.

MediaNama has written to Ola and Uber for comments and will update once we hear from them. In earlier replies, Uber has said that it has been initiating dialogue with drivers regularly through their UberSAMAJ initiative but drivers MediaNama has spoken to say that the commissions have stayed the same.

Falling earnings

As Ola and Uber have tweaked their incentive plans which led to reduced incomes.  MediaNama reported that drivers were are not able to make their ends meet or pay EMIs for their car loans. In February, we saw the first instance where an Ola driver tried to kill himself by consuming poison in a strike in Bangalore. Ola and Uber encourage drivers to buy cars on loan. Many drivers bought cars as they were lured by higher incomes the companies offered in 2015 and 2016 when the companies were starting their operations.

Drivers MediaNama spoke to said that in 2016 and 2015, they had monthly earnings of Rs 85,000 and Rs 70,000. Now their earnings have fallen to around Rs 51,000. The driver recordings and interviews show that drivers are now earning around Rs 1,700 per day and they say that this barely covers the cost of fuel and servicing of their cars. If a driver earns Rs 1700 a day for 30 days, his income is Rs 51,000. Their monthly loan EMI ranges between Rs 11,000 to Rs 16,000. Their car maintenance and fuel set them back by at least Rs 500 to Rs 700 each day. Even taking Rs 500 as an average, their monthly expenditure for this comes to Rs 15,000.