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Uber says it’s ‘doubling down’ on increasing drivers’ income, as drivers claim otherwise

Uber India said that it was doubling down to provide drivers on its platform improved earnings, as several drivers across the country have been staging protests against the company, and its rival Ola’s policies. “As cities open up and Uber’s markets recover across India, Uber is doubling down to provide drivers on its platform improved earnings and optimum utilization of their time, resulting in greater financial independence and the economic revival of communities,” the company said in a press statement on Monday.

However, both Ola and Uber drivers have said that their income from driving these cabs has significantly gone down, and complained that they receive very little help from the two companies. In fact, drivers staged a protest against Ola and Uber in Hyderabad, and Delhi, calling on the government to fix fares charged by Ola, and Uber.

At a drivers’ strike in Delhi in February, drivers had told MediaNama that they end up working for a minimum of 15 hours in a day in order to make enough money, and cover their expenses. Some drivers also alleged that Ola, and Uber delete data they have on drivers in case they lose their lives while driving cabs.

A report from last year, prepared by the Indian Federation of App-based Transport Workers, and the International Transport Workers Federation, had claimed that people working for ride hailing services like Uber and Ola work in a “very toxic and isolated work environment”. It said that the toll that the job takes a toll on the drivers’ physical health, manifesting in body aches, stomach problems, among others, due to irregular food routine, and sleep deprivation, as most of them end up driving for more than fifteen hours a day.

Uber says India business showing ‘strong signs of recovery’

Uber said that it’s India business was showing “strong signs of recovery” post the lockdown, largely due to an increased demand for low-cost options like Auto and Moto. The company did not provide specific metrics to quantify this recovery. Uber, along with rival Ola, was badly hit as India’s stringent lockdown rules had brought cabs and other means of transport to a grinding halt. Kolkata, Hyderabad, and Mumbai were among its fastest recovering markets in India, the company said, in a press statement on Monday.

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Uber Auto’s recovery across India, in terms of gross bookings, has exceeded pre-Covid levels, the company said. The demand in cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Mysore, Bhubaneswar, Jaipur, Nagpur, Indore, Nashik, and Kochi was the strongest. The company said Uber Auto was being perceived as a safer alternative owing to having fewer touch points, and better air circulation, compared to cabs.

Uber had laid off 600 employees in India as cabs on the road came to a standstill during the lockdowns last year. Rival Ola had laid off 1,400 employees.

India working to offer social security to gig workers

In a first, the central government, in September 2020, recognised the gig economy — gig workers, platform workers, and aggregators — under a wide-ranging labour law.

Called the Code on Social Security, 2020, it makes space for their benefits around life and disability cover, accident insurance, health and maternity benefits, etc. Aggregators such as Zomato, Uber, and Ola, will have to contribute between 1–2% of their annual turnover to such social security funds for workers, this amount will be capped at 5% of the total amount payable to gig workers and platform workers.

However, gig workers have called for more clarity on how welfare schemes prescribed in the Code will be funded.

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