Boomtown rap

Why is Karnataka banning and chasing away start-ups like Ola and Uber?

They can strengthen Bangalore's transportation system.

 |  Boomtown rap  |  3-minute read |   09-03-2016
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Bangalore is known as the "Innovation Hub" and the "City of Start-ups", but for the archaic departments of the Karnataka government, they mean nothing. Since the last one month, the state's transport department has taken on these start-ups for what it terms a violation of government rules.

Consequently, start-ups using various modes of transportation for their services - like Flipkart using bikes for delivery or taxi aggregators like Uber and Ola - have become their target.

The transport department, especially the Regional Transport Authority (RTA), has suddenly woken up from its deep slumber to realise that this new breed of innovators and entrepreneurs are allegedly violating the law of the land. A day after Ola and Uber launched bike taxis in Bangalore, the transport department issued a statement urging citizens not to entertain the services, as they are illegal. Also, the officials of the Regional Transport Office (RTO) are stopping bike delivery boys and asking them to produce documents for transporting the goods, and in the process harassing them.

The contention of the RTO officials is clear - two-wheelers cannot be registered as taxis, as they are meant for personal use under the existing law. Similarly, two-wheelers cannot be used to transport goods (some of the e-retailers hang huge back-packs on the riders to meet mass deliveries), as they pose danger to other motorists. But the big question is: why are they targeted now when the RTO officials were aware nearly six months ago that both Uber and Ola were planning such services?

The attitude of the RTO officials, who are notorious for their corrupt practices, smacks with arrogance and a typical bureaucratic approach. An explanation given by a top official - "These bike taxi operators have to first register as taxi service providers. Then, they have to seek our permission and we will fix the fare for the bike taxis, as prescribed under the law" - sounds valid. But this is the same explanation that the government gave nearly a year ago when their much-publicised raids against these taxi aggregators resulted in criticism. The government is nowhere close to evolving guidelines for the taxi aggregators.

On the contrary, the bike taxis, app-based taxis, ride-sharing taxis and bike delivery boys have emerged as simple solutions to the woes faced by Bangaloreans.

They no more have to haggle with an autorickshaw driver over fare and faulty metres. Today, app-based aggregators send cars to their doorstep and the IT employees are even sharing taxis while commuting to office, thereby reducing the number of vehicles on roads.

Many young people have found employment as delivery boys with the proliferation of the e-retailing sites. In several ways, these innovations have made life easier for people of Bangalore. If the trend picks in the long term, this could lead to a better quality of life and strengthening of the transport ecosystem in Bangalore where peak-hour traffic is as slow as 3kmph.

There is no doubt that all these innovations are led with business at the core, but they are doing what the government has been unable to do so far. All these years, Bangalore never had a taxi ecosystem and had to rely on the unsafe autorickshaws for commuting within the city. We had never heard of car-pooling till the taxi aggregators introduced the system.

The government is struggling to keep pace with the development of the city. The bus and Metro services are already crumbling due to high number of commuters.

These start-ups can strengthen the city's transportation system. So instead of curtailing them with the outdated laws or banning them, the government should improve regulatory framework so that start-ups thrive but under the watchful eyes of the regulators.

(Courtesy of Mail Today.)


Aravind Gowda Aravind Gowda @aravindshiv

The writer is a publicist, film scribe and political journalist.

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