Bengal govt plays referee in Uber, Ola dispute with drivers

State wants list of barred drivers; could cancel licences of repeat offenders

By Kinsuk Basu in Calcutta
  • Published 11.01.19, 1:53 AM
  • Updated 11.01.19, 1:53 AM
  • 2 mins read
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Sources in Uber said that depending on the nature of complaints, drivers receive messages from the company and are asked to appear for counselling at the “partner seva kendras”. (Shutterstock)

App-cab aggregators Uber and Ola have been asked to submit to the state government a list each of drivers temporarily barred from their platforms for allegedly refusing to take heed of complaints from passengers about general conduct.

The government’s decision to play intervene was conveyed at a meeting in Kasba with representatives of the app-cab aggregators and unions of driver partners.

Senior officers of the transport department said they would go through the lists and verify the allegations against the drivers. The penalty for a proven misdemeanour or repeat offences could be cancellation of driving licences.

The meeting on Thursday was a follow-up to the one on December 27, when representatives of Ola told transport officials that they had mechanisms in place to warn drivers against whom complaints pile up.

The norm is to first warn a driver and then arrange counselling. If there is no sign of behavioural improvements, the recalcitrant offender is taken off the online platform.

Uber did not attend that meeting.

“We do follow a defined mechanism and arrange counselling for drivers against whom complaints have been made,” a representative of Uber told transport officials on Thursday in the presence of representatives of three app-cab drivers’ unions. “Drivers are blocked or taken off only when all efforts fail.”

Sources in Uber said that depending on the nature of complaints, drivers receive messages from the company and are asked to appear for counselling at the “partner seva kendras”. A gender sensitisation programme was recently held for Uber driver partners as a part of a nationwide programme.

A section of app-cab drivers has been protesting their removal from the platforms on allegedly unfair grounds. Some of them allege that they were taken off the platforms or blacklisted around the time they were completing the number of trips necessary to be eligible for incentives.

Groups of drivers had last month stopped and attacked app-cabs going towards the EM Bypass from the Ruby crossing.

“The government is very clear about this. It will not tolerate any complaint about harassment of women by app-cab drivers or refusal to take passengers where they want to go,” a senior official of the transport department said. “There are provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, and the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989, that can be used to start proceedings against errant drivers.”

Rule 21 of the act vests power on the licensing authority to disqualify a driver from holding a driving licence for some offences, including “misbehaviour with and showing discourtesy to passengers” and “not driving a contract carriage, in the absence of a reasonable cause, to the destination named by the hirer by the shortest route”.

In trying to find the middle path, the state government asked the app-cab aggregators to allow five representatives of the driver partners’ unions to visit their offices and check the records of those temporarily barred from the online platforms.

The app-cab aggregators have been asked to also send an analysis report each on the offences allegedly committed by the penalised drivers.

“We have clarified to all the union representatives that the government will not interfere in the business models of private entities,” an official said. “If the drivers are not happy, they are welcome to leave these companies.