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Uber seeks Bombay HC help to run smoothly during driver strike

Uber India, along with 30 drivers, have approached the Bombay High Court, according to a Times of India reportThey have done so to ask the HC to “direct authorities” (in this case the Joint Commissioner of Police (traffic)) to follow the injunction by the Bombay HC last April. This injunction prevents taxi driver owners and associations from stopping drivers on app-based aggregators from doing their jobs. The JCP is supposed to make sure that driver of app-based aggregators are allowed to ply on the road and that vehicles are not damaged.

The report cites Uber as saying that it approached the HC yesterday after drivers said that they were assaulted by union members and vehicles were damaged, while also stating (anonymously) that union members were asked by their representatives to not engage in violence.

Note that it is unclear what support Uber offers to its drivers whose vehicles are damaged in protests like these. Is it covered under insurance or does a driver have to pay out of their own pocket?

We have reached out to Uber and will update this story when we hear from them. Ola said that it did not have a statement to issue at this point.

Indefinite strikes in Mumbai and Pune

The current strike by drivers in Mumbai has been ongoing for 3 days where drivers are not driving on the platform. In Pune, a strike began yesterday where apparently 5,000 drivers are not driving on the platform, causing user inconvenience due to surge pricing and autorickshaws charging at will (same for Mumbai), according to this Times of India report. A report from today stated that drivers would go on an indefinite strike. However, the same report cited Guru Katti, the president of Swaraj Vahan Chalak Malak Sanghatana, as saying that they expected the protests to be peaceful, and would let drivers not participating in the protest drive freely.  

The root of this strike remains the same

While this is not the first strike by drivers in the last 2 years (see 1 and 2), the root of drivers across the globe remains the same: poor take home earnings. In Pune, poor earnings drove an Ola driver to file an FIR against Ola’s CEO Bhavish Aggarwal for fraud and false advertising. MediaNama’s deep dive into driver troubles last year revealed that multiple drivers were driven to suicide because of this.

Also read: Why drivers sometimes get less than 50% of what customers pay for Ola Share and UberPOOL rides

Uber wants taxi deregulation but also help from the authorities

At present, Uber’s statement to TOI said: “We regret the disruption caused to our rider and driver-partner community and condemn the use of violence and intimidation by certain individuals. The Hon’ble Bombay High Court has previously issued an injunction restraining unions, their leaders, members and their followers from preventing Uber driver partners from going about their work. We request the support of law enforcement to enforce the court’s order and hope that it will enable drivers to stay behind the wheel, something many have been telling us, without fear or harassment.”

  • The above statement immediately brings memories of what happened two years ago when Uber emailed its Mumbai users asking them to sign a petition to be sent to the transport department of Maharashtra. This was in order to stop the then-newly proposed aggregator rules draft.
  • In the same week, Uber wrote to the CM of Maharashtra saying that the new taxi rules were unviable and would mean higher costs and wait times for its users. In fact, that month, Amit Jain, Uber’s India president called for deregulation of the app-based transport industry in India.
  • In 2014, it had launched a petition when the government banned online cab aggregators from plying in the state (a case history here).

We will just have to wait and watch.

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