Maharashtra panel on taxi fare recommends cap on surge pricing
Mumbai: A four-member panel formed by the Maharashtra government to review the fare policy for taxis and autorickshaws, including app-based taxis run on aggregator platforms like Uber and Ola, has made several key recommendations in its report, including happy hour fares for Mumbai’s kaali-peeli cabs.
The panel headed by retired bureaucrat B.C. Khatua submitted its report to Maharashtra’s transport department on 28 September. The report, available on the transport department’s website, also proposes amendments to the Maharashtra City Taxi Rules issued by the state government in March this year, including a recommendation to do away with the provision of at least 30% taxis with at least 1400cc (engine capacity) in the overall fleet.
The Khatua committee was formed in October 2016 to come up with a revised fare policy for taxis and autorickshws operating in Maharashtra and also recommend the minimum and maximum fare that app-based taxis run on aggregator platforms can be allowed to charge. A senior transport department official, who did not want to be named, said the government is in the process of studying the recommendations.
“At this time it would be premature to comment on the merit of the recommendations but the government is keen to accept all such recommendations which offer multiple choices to the commuters and also help create a level-playing field among old operators like autorickshaws and kaali-peeli taxis and new entrants like Ola and Uber, especially in cities like Mumbai and Pune,” the official said.
The panel has recommended a starting fare of Rs19 for autorickshaws in Mumbai (currently Rs18) and Rs23 for kaali-peeli taxis (currently Rs22). For app-based platforms, the minimum starting fare has been recommended at Rs14 and maximum at Rs38, thus suggesting a cap on surge pricing.
Mumbai has around 139,000 autorickshaws, while another 194,000 operate in the metropolitan area beyond Mumbai. Around 56,000 kaali-peeli taxis operate in Mumbai and nearly 8,000 more in the rest of Maharashtra.
The panel has also recommended happy hour pricing for the kaali-peeli taxis and auto-rickshaws in Mumbai in “the lean hours” from noon to 4 pm, during which they can reduce their fare by 15%.
In determining the minimum fare for the kaali-peeli taxis and auto-rickshaws in Mumbai and the metropolitan region, the panel took into account the cost of living of a taxi driver in Mumbai as based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for industrial workers. The panel took into account the CPI value for industrial workers in Mumbai for June 2017--290-- and estimated that the cost of living of a taxi or auto-rickshaw driver in Mumbai would be Rs15,470 per month.
The report proposes that the Maharashtra City Taxi Rules need not be applicable to kaali-peeli taxis, a recommendation which, if accepted, would mean non-app-based taxis or the old taxis cannot avail of the dynamic fare provision. The City Taxi Rules allow a black and yellow taxi to be attached to an app-based platform and hence avail the dynamic pricing that the aggregators practice. Pointing out that “the identity and purpose of the app-based city taxis and street-hailing black and yellow taxis are totally different”, the panel recommends that the kaali-peeli cabs be kept out of the purview of the City Taxi Rules so that they remain available to commuters as street-hailing taxis that do not operate on the surge pricing formula.
Another amendment that the Khatua panel has proposed to the City Taxi Rules pertains to the requirement of at least 30% of the aggregator’s total fleet to be of least 1400 cc engine capacity. The Khatua panel, which says in its report that it talked to multiple stakeholders in the industry, says the share of ridership of taxis of more than 1400 cc capacity is less than 5%. The report says that according to the stakeholders, the aggregators do not directly own a majority of their fleet taxis and hence they could not ensure compliance with this rule nor could they compel their drivers to buy taxis with engine capacity more than 1400 cc without an assured guarantee of business in the absence of demand for these taxis.
Shailesh Sawlani, general manager, Uber India, West, told Mint that “a preliminary reading of the report suggests that the committee has made welcome strides in turning aside some of the contentious provisions of the proposed Maharashtra City Taxi Rules that directly impact thousands of driver partners on app-based platforms. However, there is further scope for liberalisation”.