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Old is not so Gold: App-based cab services push ‘kaali-peelis’ to the brink

In Delhi-NCR alone, there are over 80,000 cabs operating with the app-based taxi companies, while the number of traditional taxis stands at a meagre 7,000, approximately

Taxis in Mumbai. Wikimedia
New Delhi, Sept 20, 2016: The age-old proverb “old is gold” may not hold true for traditional black-yellow taxis anymore, given the people’s increasing preference for app-based cab services for intra-city movements.
And, why not? After all, who would not opt for a service that is cheaper and at a less time consuming.
In an age of technology, when almost every sphere of human activity is touched by high-tech gadgets and gizmos, making things faster at a lesser cost, people going for cab aggregation apps does not come as a surprise. Change is the rule of nature, and the change is here, in the form of Ola, Uber and lesser known online cab aggregators.
Today, Ola has captured over 75 per cent of the taxi market share in the metros. It has nearly 250,000 cars linked to its online app across over 100 cities in the country, leaving little room for the traditional “kaali-peeli” (black and yellow) taxis.

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In Delhi-NCR alone, there are over 80,000 cabs operating with the app-based taxi companies, while the number of traditional taxis stands at a meagre 7,000, approximately. That says it all.
Most of the “kaali-peeli” taxi stands across the city wear a deserted look, with vehicles lined up and awaiting their turn on a call from passengers. Drivers can easily be found dozing off in the adjacent restrooms for want of taxi-seekers.
“I have been in this business since 1989 and have eight vehicles with me. But ever since the emergence of these private cab aggregators, our business has been badly hit,” Jaspal Singh, 58, owner of Sant Longwal Taxi Service in east Delhi’s Mayur Vihar area, told IANS.
Jaspal pointed out that against the government-fixed rate of Rs 12 per kilometre, the cab aggregators ply at Rs 6 per kilometre and it is this disparity in rates that has dealt a body blow to their business.

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He alleged that the government is hand in glove with the cab aggregators. “The government has asked the private cabs to put meters in their vehicles, but that is being violated every day, and it has failed to act against those violating rules with impunity.
Dilip, a “kaali-peeli” driver, said that earlier, they would get at least four to five customers every day, but now they have to keep waiting for even a single call.
But what is it that made the people switch loyalties so fast?
“Well, it is solely because of refusals by the taxi drivers, fleecing by a section of them and security concerns that have gone against the ‘kaali-peelis’ and for the cab aggregators,” said Arindam Choudhury, a Kolkata commuter.
Today, not more than 27,000 traditional taxis are left on the roads of the ‘City of Joy’.
“You call out five taxis and they refuse, the sixth one does agree but demands Rs 30 to Rs 50 extra. So, the best option is to go for the cab aggregators, especially when you are travelling late at night, as GPS devices fitted to their vehicles give a sense of security,” said another commuter, Pratyush Singh, a 30-year old bank employee.
Ola Cabs. Image source: Flickr
Ola, an app based Cab service. Image source: Flickr
Similarly, if for businessman R. Tapadia, app-based services are more professional, entrepreneur T. Ghosh finds their services safer for women.
However, following repeated pleas to address their concerns, the West Bengal government has come out with a notification, stating that Kolkata’s all-yellow traditional cabs will be GPS enabled and can be booked through mobile phone apps, which will also be connected to the police headquarters. Just like the new-age cabs, these taxis will also have an emergency button, closed-circuit TV cameras and the like.
One can expect the new-look services ahead of next month’s Durga Puja festival.
Mumbai is another major city that has been taxi-dependent since long for last-mile connectivity. While previously the traditional “kaali-peeli” cabs were the sole option, now those are under severe pressure from the cab aggregators.
“In barely one-and-a-half years, we have lost 60 per cent of our business to them,” bemoaned Bombay Taximen’s Union General Secretary A.L. Quadros. “The ‘kaali-peelis’ have been badly hit, as customers now prefer the app-based or on-call cabs.”
“In 1997, when the Maharashtra government had frozen fresh permits for the black-yellow cabs, there were 63,000 plying in Mumbai, which had a population of nine million. After 20 years, only 40,000 black-yellow cabs are there though the city’s population has touched a whopping 16 million,” Quadros pointed out.
“In line with the court orders, the authorities must fix a uniform minimum-maximum rate for all cabs, which will help us get back our customers,” Quadros said.
Similarly, the entry of autorickshaws in large numbers in Chennai several decades back forced the black-yellow taxis out of the city roads by serving the inbound travellers at Chennai airport, and Central and Egmore railway stations. But the entry of radio taxis or ‘call taxis’, like FastTrack, Ola and others, have virtually sounded a death knell for them, according to G. Kannan, Joint Secretary, Chennai Airport Pre-paid Taxi Owner-Driver Association.
On the reasons for the loss of customers, though he did not rule out the cost factor, he also stressed that the customer preference is fast changing now. “Many commuters do not like to be seen in the black-yellow vehicles,” Kannan said, adding that perhaps travelling in app-based taxis looks more “hep” these days. (IANS)

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Harangue still rampant amid pseudo intellectuals in Kolkata


By Sreyashi Mazumdar

images (2)Sipping a cup of tea, wearing a cotton kurta and a jhola dangling across the shoulders, he (anonymous) called for the tea stall vendor and said: “Dada Ekta cha are biscuit diye dao.” Turning to the political page of Ananda Bazaar Patrika, he gawked at the headline on the first page of the leading daily. In a minute, he was surrounded by his friends.

Taking to their seats, all of them started deliberating seethingly on issues concerning development in Kolkata. “Till Mamata is helming the state affairs, no good will be rendered to the state. CPI(M) has already ruined the state and Mamata’s administrative capability is a cherry on top to the same,” he said.

One would often come across such vivacious youngsters thronging the most-talked about getaways in the City of Joy; however, the cock-a-hoop tales doesn’t really materialise owing to their lackadaisical attitude.

“Kolkatans talk a lot. They think that change can happen in a closed room or mere deliberations will overhaul the status of the city; however, this doesn’t really happen in reality. Protests and stalling classes are some of the common phenomena in the city but they fail to yield a result,” said 42-year-old Soumen Biswas.

Attuning to the humidity and the sultriness permeating the city, the tempered souls inhabiting the same are often found in the midst of a heated conversation. Vociferous slogan like “We want change. We will revolt.” can be heard reverberating across the alleys. “Student politics is something that is quite relevant in Kolkata but it has lost its sheen. Students now take to streets owing to every petty issue. One shouldn’t overdo an act as it loses its sheen,” said Arijit Banerjee, a professor at Calcutta University.

Adding to the hubbub, the intelligentia of this city is no less. There might be a string of articleshjhk by the best of the intellectuals such as Amit Chaudhuri, Neil Mukherjee, and Upamanyu Chatterjee, who essay the dilapidated condition of the city. There might be literary festivals with glitterati talking over important issues catering to the city, but a very few of their catharsis has brought forth a change.

“The problem with the intellectuals mainly involve their penchant for a bourgeoisie culture. They might be talking of varied issues ranging from grass-root level politics to cinema and Poriborton but the words they choose to flesh out the same is essentially uptown and unintelligible for the commoners. The divide between the pseudo intellectuals and the commoners at times adds on to impasse surging the city,” said 23-years-old Sushanta Choudhury, a Presidency University student.

Fending off the garrulity prevalent in the city, Kolkatans should think of bringing forth a drastic change. Words should give up their pages and take to reality as action speaks louder than words and it is the same for the city as well.