Caught between surge and bans, Delhi's cab woes worsen
The Delhi government today impounded over 50 taxis of app-based cab aggregators such as Uber for invoking surge pricing in a drive that continued late into the night, a day after Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal warned of strong action.
Transport Minister Gopal Rai also announced a dedicated helpline for passengers to lodge complaints against those violating the Delhi government's directive against surge pricing. Hundreds of calls were received on the helpline number since the morning.
"If any cab is charging extra money in the name of surge pricing please call 01142400400. We will take strong action," Rai tweeted.
An official said a few cabs were impounded on the basis of complaints received on the dedicated helpline while action against the rest was taken on complaints received via other channels including the departments helpline number 42400400.
"The permits provided to the cab drivers clearly say that they cannot overcharge. The action is being taken based on that," the official said.
However, Ola, one of the prominent app-based taxi-hailing companies, tweeted that there is currently no peak pricing on its platform in Delhi NCR.
Amid the shortage of taxis in the wake of ban on diesel-run cabs in the national capital, Uber brought back controversial surge pricing yesterday, a day after the odd-even car rationing scheme ended.
Adding to the woes of passengers, the Supreme Court's decision to ban diesel cabs has triggered a massive strike by cabbies, who have taken to blocking roads, creating jams that lasted several hours.
Traffic crawled across the city as diesel cab drivers blocked key roads connecting the city to neighbouring Noida and Gurgaon.
Transport Minister Gopal Rai met a number of taxi operators at the Delhi Secretariat who threatened to lay a "siege" to the capital in the absence of any governmental intervention to stop impounding of diesel cabs running on All India Permits.
The government also moved the Supreme Court seeking time to phase out diesel taxis after which the court set a two-day deadline and asked it to submit a detailed plan in this regard.
The operators have been asked by the government to submit their proposals tomorrow when the SC-constituted Environment and Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) will also meet to discuss the issues arising from the ban imposed by the apex court.
Rai told reporters that the Supreme Court order dated April 30, that put an end to the plying of diesel-run cabs in the national capital, had no reference to vehicles running on All India permits and that had created a lot of confusion.
"The written order is ambiguous on the status of cabs running on national permits leading to the confusion. It also gave ammunition to the Opposition to spread rumours. So we have moved the SC to dispel the confusion," Rai said.
One of the transport operators, Balwant Singh Bhullar, who was present at the meeting, said the authorities were "unlawfully" booking and impounding cabs ferrying passengers to places outside Delhi resulting in panic among the cabbies.
Rai promised to look into the issue and asked the operators to provide copies of challans to the Transport Department after which the government may reimburse the penalty recovered from them. "But we will take up cases where enforcement departments of the transport department are involved and not the traffic," he said.
He said the drive against diesel taxis and surge pricing by app-based cab aggregators like Uber shall continue.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday gave a two-day deadline to the AAP government in Delhi for filing a detailed plan on phasing out diesel run taxis from the national capital, which faced protests and blockades by diesel cab operators.