The financial distress felt by India’s cab drivers after the arrival of Ola and Uber saw 32- year-old Pratap, a cab driver with the Karnata- ka State Tourism Development Corpora- tion (KSTDC), die by setting fire to himself on Tuesday 30 March near Bengaluru airport. Inc42 reports that not being able to pay his car loan, being worried about the fall in income due to the aggressive pric- ing strategy of Ola and Uber, but most of all and anguished by the lack of government support, Pratap took his own life. He succumbed to his injuries on Wednesday, and the news drove his fellow cab drivers to protest at the airport. Pratap’s struggles typify the experience for cabbies who have not joined cab aggregators such as Ola and Uber. Ola launched in 2010 with Uber arriving in 2013 and both companies now dominate the market once led by small pri- vate taxi companies in select cities. The aggressive pricing strategy by these tech platforms for acquiring customers and the lucrative incentives for drivers in the early years meant that both companies managed to drive the regular taxis to the fringe. But Ola and Uber’s pricing while successful in gaining customers, has alienated their drivers, who spend time between fares campaigning for better wages and rights on Facebook forums and on the roads with their unions. The protest launched at Bengaluru’s Kempegowda Interna- tional Airport after Pratap’s death, against Ola and Uber, saw several drivers affiliated with those two companies also participate in the demonstrations. They may be on the opposite side of Pratap, but the grievances are theirs too. Tanveer Pasha, president of the Ola, TaxiForSure and Uber (OTU) Drivers’ Union in Bengaluru told Inc42 that an indefinite strike may be on the cards if Ola and Uber fail to guarantee better prices to their drivers. He said that after deducting the cab aggregator’s commission on every ride and the GST surcharge, a driver is able to pocket only 70% of the ride fare. Last year, the central government had mandated that cab aggregators will not be allowed to charge more than 20% of the ride fare as commission. The last few months have seen cab drivers go on strike in


several cities. In Kolkata, drivers are refusing to switch on the air-conditioner in the car to save fuel, much to the chagrin of commuters. Similar incidents have been reported in Delhi and Bengaluru as well. Uber and Ola didn’t respond to queries about this troubling development. After Pratap’s death, Facebook groups of cab drivers’ unions have been flooded with condolence messages. There are other posts too, celebrating the show of unity by drivers in Bengaluru who have chosen to protest at the airport.

from USA


Airport transport service, Buffalo Limousine, lost about 70 per cent of its business during the Covid-19 pandemic. But the company said its luck changed recently, thanks to Canadians returning from U.S. sunbelt states who want to avoid Canada’s hotel quarantine requirement. “This is a huge shot in the arm for us, this Canadian travel,” said Carla Boccio, owner of Buffalo Limousine. “It’s a godsend.” Since February 22, air passengers entering Canada have been required to quarantine for up to three days in a desig- nated hotel and pay for the cost - up to $2,000. However, travellers entering by land are exempt from the rule. To avoid the hotel quarantine, some Canadians are flying to U.S. cities close to the Canadian border - such as Buffalo, N.Y. - and then hiring a ground transport service - such as Buffalo Limousine — to drive them across the Canadian border. “When Canada imposed that hotel [quarantine], then it was just like our phones were exploding,” said Boccio. “What I hear from the majority of these people, it’s not even so much the cost, it’s like you’re in jail … with this hotel quarantine.” CBC News interviewed three airport transport services and the companies said they’ll drive Canadians to or across the Canadian border for around $100 US and, for an added fee, will drive passengers directly to their homes in Ontario. Each company said it has seen a boost in business after Canada introduced the hotel quarantine requirement. Since late February, Buffalo Limousine has, on average, transported 50 customers a day across the Canadian border, increasing its business by around 50 per cent, Carla Boccio said. “I’m more thankful than I could even put into words.” The Canadian federal government surprised snowbirds abroad when it changed the travel rules requiring air passen- gers entering Canada to take a Covid-19 test upon arrival, and spend up to three days of their 14-day quarantine in a hotel to await the test results.

MAY 2021

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