After a brief hiatus, the feud between autorickshaw-taxi and online cab drivers has reared its ugly head yet again with a section of autorickshaw and taxi operators at both the railway stations in the city resorting to a flash strike on Monday, inconveniencing passengers. The issue began after the railway authorities reportedly gave permission to the online cab drivers to park their vehicles on the station premises in the morning. The autorickshaw and taxi drivers blocked the online cabs that turned up at the Ernakulam Junction railway station in the morning in protest against the Railways’ decision to grant parking space for Uber cabs along with other autorickshaws and taxies at the station.
According to Shaji, a representative of the City Auto Union, a few online cabs were parked in front of the railway station in the morning disregarding the auto-taxi stand. “They were canvassing passengers by offering travel packages, which invited the wrath of auto-taxi operators at the railway station. Following this, the members of various auto-taxi unions affiliated to CITU, INTUC, AITUC, BMS, STU and TUCI called a flash strike,” he said.
“The District Auto-Taxi Coordination Committee has decided to continue with the strike until the Railways come up with a solution to this issue,” said M B Srumanthadan, secretary, Ernakulam District Auto-Taxi Coordination Committee. According to the auto-taxi operators, during the Sabarimala pilgrimage season, they get relatively more rides than the rest of the months.
“We are prepaid taxi drivers operating as per government-fixed charges. However, the Uber charges vary from morning to night. It will affect the services provided by the traditional operators,” said Sanil, a taxi driver.
“We heard the Railways had arrived at an agreement with Uber for three months and, based on this, they were canvassing passengers. Each taxi driver pays a minimum of Rs.4,000 every six months for using the space allotted to them on the station premises, he said. If Uber operates from here without any fixed charge, there is no point in paying the amount to the authorities,” said, Pradeep Kumar, CITU district joint secretary.