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Ola, Uber drivers on indefinite strike; users complain of high fares, cab unavailability

Thousands of drivers have gathered today at Ramlila Ground in central Delhi to hold the protest.

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So, today started off as a normal day, but within hours nothing was as usual, at least for people like me who rely on cabs from Ola and Uber to commute to work and other places. I sat down for an hour struggling to find a cab. While most of the times my Ola and Uber app failed to find me a cab, the one odd time that I was able to book a ride, the driver insisted for me to cancel it, giving reasons like they were low on fuel, or they did not want to go in the direction of my destination. However, two of them were quite honest, and they told me that Ola and Uber drivers were on a strike, and so no one would agree on accepting a ride today. And that’s when it struck me.

About a month ago, drivers working with the cab-hailing services, Ola and Uber, had put forth some demands for their companies, saying that in a situation where there demands aren’t met, the union of over 40,000 to 50,000 drivers will go on a strike on Friday, February 10. Today is that day. Sarvodaya Driver Association of Delhi, which claims to have 2,000 members working for either Uber or Ola, has called for the strike. Which means, for Uber and Ola users all around Delhi and National Capital Region, getting a cab would be a deed with the devil. This strike comes in after a similar one took place in Bengaluru and Hyderabad some days ago.

 

Nevertheless of all the chaos, with my hours of persistence to attempt to book a ride today, I did manage to strike a booking with a rebellious angel, Ramveer, who regardless of all the agitation, agreed to accept my ride request. When he reached my pickup location, he was being chased by two other cabs. And I could tell he was gesticulating at me from a distance to rush into the cab as soon as he reaches near me. I really didn’t have the time to make a sound decision and just stay back, instead, in a true Mission Impossible spirit I just jumped on the cab as soon as he reached there. The two cabs continued to chase us for a distance, but then they stopped for some reason. However, we stopped again by some drivers, when my cabbie asked me to say that it was an office cab and not an Ola or Uber, so I did that.

Point being, considering how a union works, not only did the drivers go on a strike themselves, they are forcing their fellows to refuse rides as well. But, with most people up on strike, the fares are sky high and some drivers are willing to take the risk to earn that extra buck, at least that was my cabbie’s strategy.

 

While it was generally known that the strike was being held because they drivers have been asking for better perks, relaxed hours for targets, accident insurance, and others. The list of demands also includes the disagreement on running the cabs at a fare of Rs 6 per kilometre, which is the minimum the two companies charge customers. However, I spoke to my cabbie too, and despite accepting my ride request, he said he plans to join the protest as well.

According to Ramveer, the real issue was that, earlier Uber and Ola user to pay a little remuneration to the drivers over the ride money, which they have stopped now. Which, he says, has caused a lot of difficulty for driver, especially the ones who are paying installments for their cabs.

While that’s the drivers’ side of story that we know, Uber says it has been receiving threats and intimidations, but plans to sort the cab availability issue as soon as it can. “A small group of people are disrupting the Uber service in parts of Delhi, and there have been isolated reports of threats and intimidation. We are working hard to ensure reliable rides are available for everyone and we can keep the city moving. We call on authorities to ensure the safety of riders and drivers,” Uber said in a statement. We are still awaiting response from Ola.

While Uber has not sent out any notification regarding the strike, Ola has sent out a prompt to some of its users, which doesn’t directly address the issue, but does suggest the option of Ola Auto considering the drop in availability of cabs.

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Both Ola and Uber drivers plan to remain on strike until their demands are addressed. And like my cabbie recommended me, all the people who are frequent users of the service, must plan for an alternative, at least till Monday.

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  • Published Date: February 10, 2017 1:06 PM IST