The Transport Department’s move to allow e-bike taxi operations in the city has not gone down well with auto and taxi drivers. They see e-bike taxi business as a threat that will eat into their revenue.
Sources in the Transport Department said that an applicant who had applied for a licence was found eligible to run taxi services under the Karnataka Electric Bike Taxi Scheme. The scheme was introduced in 2021, primarily aiming at first and last-mile connectivity from metro stations, bus stands, and short-distance travel. In January, the department fixed ₹25 for the first 5 km and ₹50 from 5 km to 10 km for e-bike taxis.
Even before the scheme was introduced, several taxi aggregators had already introduced bike taxi services by attaching white-board bikes (vehicles used for private purposes). Auto and taxi drivers had vehemently opposed such operations and protested against the inaction of the Transport Department. There were instances of the department impounding vehicles and penalising those who attached the vehicles with the aggregators.
Sreenivas C.N., president of Autorickshaw Drivers’ Union affiliated to CITU, said, “Even before the department officially came out with a policy, illegal bike taxis were operational in the city. The recent incident of the alleged sexual abuse of a woman passenger by the bike rider and his associate exposed how unsafe bike taxis are. It is unfortunate that such illegal businesses are allowed to run under the nose of the department. Now, the department is in the process of issuing a formal licence to run e-bike taxis. The move will go against the interest of auto and taxi drivers in the city as their revenue will be hit. It is a State sponsored scheme to put drivers into financial distress.”
Mr. Sreenivas added that in the city, there are 1.75 to 2 lakh autos plying on the city roads and lakh of families are dependent on the auto business. He also warned of protesting against the department, if it goes ahead with the plan of issuing licences.
“Taxi drivers are already suffering a lot as taxi aggregators are not following the rules on fares fixed by the government. Drivers are forced to part with hefty commissions to get the bookings. As if this problem is not enough, the department is going to issue licences for e-bike taxis. The move will harm thousands of taxi drivers in the city who have invested in lakhs to run taxis,” said Suresh N., general secretary, Bangalore District Taxi Drivers’ Union.
Transport Commissioner S.N. Siddaramappa told The Hindu that the process is on to issue the licence only for e-bike taxis. “There were four to five applications received, but we will issue a licence for only e-bike taxis if the applicants meet the criteria. Two operators are likely to meet the set guidelines to run the e-bike taxis. No licence has been issued yet.”