Yes, you read that right. My grandfather almost died because of the odd-even confusion that’s going on in Delhi. The confusion related to the banning of "surge pricing" is creating havoc for commuters as cab service aggregators revoked multiple cabs from their platforms, resulting in a shortage of cabs on the roads and today, it nearly prevented me from taking my grandfather to the hospital after he suffered a nasty fall.
So here’s what happened. At 7pm, I received a call from my mom asking me to rush home as my 86-year-old grandfather had taken a fall and was bleeding. My grandfather, who has been in and out of the hospital in the last few months, has a serious heart condition and also suffers from respiratory ailment. Suffice to say, he is a very sick man and at the time I was the family member closest to home.
It would normally take me not more than 35 minutes, even during rush hours, to ride home from office. If there are no traffic jams, I would take merely 20 minutes to drive home. But I was stuck. There were literally no Uber or Ola cabs available. I couldn't even convince the auto rickshaw driver to take me home. I was running out of time.
Ordinarily, I would've had my car and would've raced back home and tended to my grandfather. But I couldn't do that because it was an "odd" day, which meant I couldn't bring my even-numbered vehicle on the road.
Things had worsened in the last couple of days as Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal banned surge pricing for cab aggregators like Ola and Uber which was inflating commutes to as much as five times the normal cost of a ride.
|I was stuck and running out of time. There were literally no Uber or Ola cabs available.|
In retaliation, the cab aggregators have drastically reduced supply of the cabs that are available.
In fact, Uber even sent out a message to its users about the same. “Dear rider, if you’re seeing no cars available or longer wait time, that’s because of the suspension of surge,” read Uber's message to its users.
It further elaborates that surge pricing allows it to maintain a steady flow of demand and supply of cabs. “Surge ensures there’s a car available at all times. While we’re working hard on getting more cars out on the road, please switch to UberPool and help us utilise the existing cars better. Bear with us - Uber Delhi,” it says.
All this is hunky-dory, but should I ‘bear with you’ when you know something could have happened to my grandfather as a result of your meaningless tug of war with the Delhi government? Hell no. It is not my problem.
If I had my car, I could’ve driven him to the hospital myself. Thankfully, my neighbours got wind of the situation and helped us out.
But what will happen the day they can’t?
Kejriwal and his government had three months to figure all this out. Why did his government have to ban surge pricing on the second day that the odd-even formula has been in operation now, when it had trialled the formula for 15 days in January?
Why didn't Uber and Ola come up with more cabs or some solutions? According to a 'Times of India' report, auto-rickshaw drivers have formed a cartel and are now charging obscene amounts or just refuse to move. Why wasn’t this sorted out by the government?
Whoever must take the blame, the aam aadmi shouldn’t. I am all for protecting the environment. I am all for decreasing the traffic, but there should be some real solutions at play, not ham-fisted and knee-jerk solutions.
PS: I reached home finally at 8.20pm, after waiting for a cab for more than an hour, in an Ola, which was driven by a driver who seemingly neither had any clue about how to drive, nor did he even look old enough to drive the car. I had greater problems to think about though. So I didn’t check.