Unable to meet the expenses required to make their vehicles ‘road-worthy’ amid rise in fuel prices, several app cab owners have kept their vehicles off roads, while many others have switched trade altogether.
Across Kolkata and Howrah, bus and minibus owners of several routes have decided to stay away from operating regularly because their returns are disproportionate to their daily expenditure. The presence of blue-and-white cabs on the roads, too, has shrunk.
With the price of diesel inching close towards the Rs 100-mark — a litre sold at Rs 99.83 in Kolkata on Wednesday — and that of petrol shooting up steadily, daily commute has taken its worst beating in recent times.
“I haven’t logged into the app platform for months now. I have been struggling to arrange for EMI for my Swift Dzire and now the diesel prices have ensured that I just keep my car parked outside my house,” said Dilip Mondal, a resident of Charu Market in south Kolkata’s Tollygunge.
“The fare that an app-cab platform is now offering isn’t enough to sustain after paying for the driver and the fuel,” Mondal said.
Recently, Uber increased trip fares by 12 per cent to support driver earnings following a hike in fuel prices. But the hike has not come as a major incentive for many who have been keeping off the roads for several months now, struggling to arrange for insurance premium and repay bank loans of their cars.
“I had to sell off my two app cabs — a Swift Dzire and a Hyundai Eon. The rising cost of diesel and the diminishing returns made me realise that there was no immediate way out,” said Surhid Mukherjee of Naktala on the city's southern fringes.
Mukherjee has set up a small unit at his house that manufactures elastic bands for garments.
The fallout has been showing with app-cabs plying in lesser numbers and waiting time going up during peak hours. The demand-supply mismatch also resulted in fare hike.
“There has been nearly a 50 per cent drop in the number of app-cabs that are now operating,” said Indranil Banerjee of the West Bengal Online App-cab Operators Guild.
The cost of diesel has forced several bus and minibus owners to stay off the roads.
“We have urged the transport minister to consider revising fares of private buses and minibuses, otherwise this industry will not survive,” said Rahul Chatterjee of All Bengal Bus Minibus Samannay Samity.
Chatterjee sent a letter to the minister on Monday.