Ola and Uber drives are on an indefinite strike across Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Bengaluru, among other cities, protesting poor payouts received from the app-based taxi hailing firms. While most cabs are off the road in Mumbai, users from cities like Delhi, Bengaluru and others have told Medianama that they are able to book cabs (some users had to pay surge fares).

The strike was first called by the Maharashtra Navnirman Vahatuk Sena, a driver union in Mumbai and ET reports that 60,000 cabs will go off the roads in Mumbai alone. Sanjay Naik, the union’s president has said that the strike is the result of Ola and Uber failing to keep their promises. Naik told PTI that the companies had promised that drivers will be making at least 1.5 lakhs a month but aren’t even able to make half of that. This has put the drivers, who had taken loans to buy cars, under huge debt.

Naik further alleged that these taxi-hailing companies are giving first priority to company-owned cars rather than driver-owned vehicles, causing a slump in their business. While taxi-hailing companies offered loan-guarantee letters to drivers through the Mudra scheme and that too without any verification, they are defaulting on repayment now as their costs are not covered, he claimed.

Drivers had earlier told the media 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.

Some of the key demands made by the drivers are: 

  • Ensure that drivers receive at least Rs 1.25 lakh of monthly business
  • Ability to decide fares based on the cost of the vehicle
  • Stopping of low fare bookings
  • The reinstatement of blacklisted drivers who were dropped by the aggregator due to poor ratings.

An Ola spokesperson told Medianama that the Mumbai Police has taken all the necessary steps to ensure the safety of commuters during their cab rides in the city. 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 2017, 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.