The State government has decided to reverse the Transport Department’s decision to suspend the licence of the app-based taxi aggregator, Ola, which had run foul with the authorities for illegally operating bike-taxi service. When they learned that they would not be able to operate for six months, many drivers on the platform approached Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy for a reprieve as their livelihood was at stake.
Transport Minister D.C. Thammanna on Sunday told The Hindu that Mr. Kumaraswamy directed the department to revoke the six-month suspension order that was issued last week. “Thousands of drivers have attached their vehicles with Ola. If the suspension order is imposed, the drivers will suffer. The decision was taken after taking their request into consideration,” said Mr. Thammanna.
The order will be revoked on Monday. Ola, however, will still be penalised for illegally operating bike taxis, for which the aggregator was facing action. It is said that the department would likely impose a penalty of ₹10 lakh on the aggregator.
It is not just drivers on the platform who have welcomed the decision, but also commuters. Many were worried that in the absence of Ola, their commute would be more expensive. “It would have been a huge inconvenience for us if the department went ahead with the order to suspend the licence, even if it was temporary,” said a commuter.
As per the order issued on March 18, Ola was asked to stop its operation with immediate effect after receiving the copy of the order and submit the licence to the authorities concerned within three days. On Saturday, the department set time till Monday to comply with the rules and come out with a reply.
Chief Secretary T.M. Vijay Bhaskar said, “The Transport Commissioner will hold a meeting with Ola on Monday.”
Social Welfare Minister announces decision on Twitter
The decision to revoke the order suspending Ola’s licence for six months was first “announced” not by the Transport Department, but by Social Welfare Minister Priyank Kharge on Twitter. Mr. Kharge on Sunday tweeted: “Ola cabs would run their business as usual from today (Sunday). However, there is an urgent need for policies to catch up with new technologies and also industries too should work closer with the Government to help evolve policies.”
When contacted, Mr. Kharge told The Hindu that the issue had been sorted out. “Ola has been allowed to run their business. The decision to suspend their licence was taken by lower-rung officers rather than bringing it to the notice of the Transport Minister or the government. On Saturday, at the Chief Secretary level, a decision was taken to revoke the suspension order.”
The Minister’s tweet evoked reaction from various quarters, including the Opposition BJP. BJP MLA and former Minister Suresh Kumar took to Twitter to criticise the government for its quick turnaround. “How did the State government revoke the order suspending Ola’s licence within two days?” he tweeted.
Tanveer Pasha, who heads the Taxi Owners’ Association, and had, along with other unions, petitioned the Transport Department seeking action against Ola for operating bike taxis, said drivers of various unions would oppose the decision. “Action must be initiated against Ola for violating rules, or else it shows that there is no value for the law. We will resort to protest if the department fails to initiate action.”