As if the searing heat across the country is not bad enough, the hike in CNG prices across Mumbai, Delhi NCR, Telangana and Bengaluru have set tempers flaring among drivers and consumers.
While Ola and Uber have revised their fares by 10-15 percent on an average, the "No AC" campaign of cabbies is making users sweat further. Drivers of these two brands have started demanding Rs 50-100 extra for an air-conditioned ride.
In Delhi, drivers went on a day’s strike recently and have threatened to go on an indefinite one beginning April 18 in the NCR region if CNG prices are not reduced. Users are swarming across Twitter to express their displeasure. "Is it time for a horse-drawn Ola and Uber Tonga to make a comeback?" asks @mukeshmarda.
Delhi auto rickshaw drivers are also clamouring for a price revision. Down south, the Telangana Gig and Platform Workers Union are demanding an increase in fare hikes and said they will also join the ‘No AC’ campaign in Hyderabad.
Twitter user @pushparinku said, "What's wrong with Ola & Uber? Why are your drivers refusing to switch on the AC? Ola driver refused in the morning and same day in evening Uber driver refused to switch on the AC. Drivers are saying that companies don't allow us to give AC service to customers. What is this?"
In response to such threats, Uber has warned driver partners supporting the “No AC” campaign to face repercussions and be prepared to be removed from the app. Uber is continuously monitoring the current rise in CNG and fuel prices. It will evaluate the situation and further increase fares should the situation arise, said a company spokesperson in an email response.
“We don’t levy extra charges for switching on the AC during a ride and any driver who is charging such a fee will face action from the company for violating our community guidelines," he added.
In case of a driver’s refusal, riders have the option to reach Uber via in-app chat messages and post-trip feedback. Continued non-compliance by drivers may lead to them losing access to the Uber app,” said the spokesperson.
Furious with Ola for not taking action against its drivers’ "No AC" policy, Rohit Sen took to the micro blogging site taggingOlacabs # bhavish Aggarwal-" It's becoming a trend now for your Ola cabs drivers to refuse ac in such hot weather... They simply refuse to on ac blankly quoting xyz reason. There is no way to complain about them and they are bossing around with arrogance. Request your attention!!"
Drivers, in their defence, complain that their earnings have shrunk despite slogging day and night-- from the earlier Rs 1,500- 2,000 to Rs 900-1,000 after deducting costs and commissions. Zia Mohammed, a cabbie at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport had this to say, “A Kaali-Peeli (black-and-yellow) taxi gets Rs25 per kilometre. We provide a service including AC at half the fare. We have no choice but to switch off the AC to survive with such meagre incomes.”
More bookings are coming with resumption of international flights but it will continue to be a sweaty ride for passengers till they pay more. “What is the use of us slogging? Ola is not reducing its 30-40 per cent commission and neither is the Government cutting CNG prices. This is eating up a large chunk of our earnings,” complains Mohammed.
The problem is not confined to Ola and Uber drivers alone with the 30,000 Kaali Peelis of Mumbai finding high fuel prices too hot to handle. “It is getting unbearable for us. We have asked the Maharashtra government to revise prices from Rs 25 to Rs 30 per km,” said AM Quadros, President of Mumbai TaxiMen Association.
While an Ola spokesperson declined to comment on the issue, a message from the company to drivers said that keeping in view the increase in fuel prices it has revised the fare upwards. This will help drivers earn more per km and enhance their income by 11 per cent.
For instance, the rates in the “mini” category in Ola will go up to Rs 11/km from the current Rs 9.5/km. Also the rate after 18 km has been revised up to Rs 12.60 per km from Rs 11.80. Ola Prime rates have also been revised to Rs 14.25 from Rs13 per km. “Our request is not to switch off the air-conditioning unless a customer asks for it," Ola said in its communiqué to its driver partners.
CNG in Nagpur is the costliest across the country at Rs 111.50 per kg, followed by Gurugram (Rs 76.34), Noida, Greater Noida and Ghaziabad. Mumbai, in contrast, is Rs 67 but this is of little consolation to the driver community.