The state government on Friday issued a notification allowing all bike-taxi drivers road permits to operate across five districts instead of the existing three.
The permit will be for “contract carriage”, the notification issued by transport secretary Saumitra Mohan says. It comes into “immediate effect”.
Officials said the move was aimed at enticing more owners of bike-taxis to opt for commercial registration of their vehicles and become eligible for the permit.
There are some 20,000 bike-taxis and the majority of them are in Kolkata. The two-wheelers being used as bike-taxis are mostly registered as private vehicles, transport department officials said.
Cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore have banned bike-taxis registered as private vehicles.
For some time now, the West Bengal government has been trying to bring the drivers of bike-taxis under a legal framework.
The transport department has been urging the owners of the two-wheelers to get their vehicles re-registered as “commercial vehicles” but the response has been tepid.
A negligible percentage of owners have opted to get their vehicles registered as commercial vehicles, officials said.
Friday’s notification is aimed at wooing the reluctant owners to make the switch and get a contract carriage permit covering five districts.
“Without a valid permit, these vehicle owners will be considered illegal operators and will be fined by police. The government wants to recognise this workforce and is relaxing the limits of permit to allow unhindered movement,” said a transport department official.
The number of two-wheeler owners doubling as biketaxi drivers has increased rapidly across the city. Many commuters said they preferred online bike-taxis to app cabs because a ride on a two-wheeler was faster and cheaper (especially during rush hours).
“I switched to bike-taxis since the Santragachhi flyover was temporarily closed for repairs. It’s faster and it pinches less,” said Gaurabmoy Chaki, an executive with a logistics company in Howrah.
At a recent meeting with representatives of app-cab operators and online aggregators, the state government said they would organise camps in districts to facilitate the switch from private to commercial registration of two-wheelers.
“With this new directive, we hope private owners will want to switch readily,” the officer said.