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The recent central guidelines on cab aggregators, such as Ola and Uber, will provide uniformity in regulations across India; it will not only help the firms grow steadily, but also help states get more revenue, said Union road transport and highways secretary Giridhar Aramane in an interview, refuting cab aggregators’ concerns over increasing compliance burden amid covid-19, and falling income due to the cap on commission and surge pricing. Edited excerpts:

What’s the main idea behind the Motor Vehicle Aggregator Guidelines, 2020?

Earlier every state or UT (Union territory) had separate guidelines. Some tried to impose restrictions such that running a cab aggregating business was not possible. If there are 30-40 regulators (states), we will end up having diverse regulations, making compliance burden high for Uber, Ola and other cab aggregators in future. It is essential that we regulate the regulator so that this innovative model is not killed. Certain incidents of Uber or Ola drivers misbehaving with customers, the question of safety of customers weighed very heavily. Some incidents highlighted necessity of imposing safety standards on drivers and aggregators. This was the main intention behind the rules.

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How soon do you expect the states to implement the new rules?

States are likely to adopt the guidelines quickly as they know that providing uniformity will result in bringing them more revenue, rather than going ahead with a restrictive policy, and ending up with less business. There are incentives for states also, 2% over and above the fare, if they provide necessary infrastructure, such as parking, required by aggregators. It is a win-win for companies and states. Once state governments impose the rules uniformly, commuters will also benefit. With these regulations companies will see steady growth in business, without much hindrance from the regulator. The arbitrariness will disappear.

Do you see cab rides getting cheaper?

Right now, cab rides are cheaper due to other reasons. The pandemic has impacted the pricing. In the long run, when we come up with the vaccine, and the economy returns to a normal rate of growth, the imposition of surge price cap will ensure that cabs do not fleece customers. Fifty per cent is quite a good leeway for companies. At the same time, consumers in vulnerable timings and locations will not get fleeced. Consumers should not be at the mercy of companies. That’s the main reason for imposing a cap on surge pricing, while ensuring there is enough leeway for them to make a profit.

We discussed the issue of commission with Ola, Uber and driver representatives. We looked at the current scenario and determined that 20% will not hurt drivers, and incentivize companies, giving them huge money to develop the business. I don’t think it will hurt any player involved.

There are concerns over cap on duty hours (12 hours) for drivers engaged with more than one aggregator, or data sharing with a competitor, besides social security coverage. How will you explain that?

Cab aggregators’ main business is technological innovation. By sharing data seamlessly with others, regulators, a third party will ensure that drivers’ interest is served, that they don’t work overtime.. In fact, an overworked driver is a danger for the aggregator and the commuter. That’s why creating a platform where they can share the data anonymously is being thought of. I don’t think it is a problem.

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