Several autorickshaw drivers’ unions in Karnataka will hold a rally from KSR Bengaluru city railway station to Freedom Park on December 29 in protest against the state government for permitting electric bike taxis in Bengaluru. However, the auto services in the city will not be affected on the day.
The auto drivers are set to intensify the protest against the state transport department as part of the ‘Vidhana Soudha Chalo’ rally called by the Bengaluru Auto Drivers Unions’ Federation. They believe that legalising e-bike taxis could spell trouble for them. The rally will be supported by certain auto drivers’ associations and voluntary groups. Though the federation promised that the services will not be hit on December 29, it is likely that a few autos might ply only in the central areas of Bengaluru, the members said.
The Karnataka transport department on December 6 decided to issue a licence to Wicked Ride, the parent company of Bounce, to operate e-bike taxi services in the state. The state government has also fixed the fare at Rs 25 for 5 km and Rs 50 for 10 km. The e-bike taxi services will be permitted to operate under the Karnataka Electric Bike Taxi Scheme 2021 which was passed by the state government in an effort to enhance first and last-mile connectivity, promote environment-friendly transport solutions and ease urban mobility.
However, the union members alleged that the aggregator companies have destroyed the livelihoods of auto drivers by making them gullible to incentives offered through the aggregator apps. For almost two years now, the Bengaluru auto drivers have been protesting against the bike aggregator app ‘Rapido’ for illegally operating in the city. The auto driver unions have also written to the transport department on several counts about the need to curb the services of bike taxis.
M Manjunath, president of Adarsha Auto and Taxi drivers’ union, said that the bike aggregator apps are nothing but a platform for daylight robbery.
“Many youngsters are being lured by such aggregator companies through offers and incentives which are destroying their livelihood. Many college students and young working professionals are operating illegal services like ‘Rapido’ to make both ends meet. In addition, by offering bike services at very low fares, how can auto drivers survive? How can he look after his family, clear his debts or pay his children’s school fees?” Manjunath said.
He further alleged that despite the unions warning the government several times about the illegal bike taxi services and their repercussions on auto drivers, the Karnataka government went ahead making bike taxis legal through the e-bike taxi scheme. “In the coming days we will intensify our protests until the government withdraws the scheme and the license given to Bounce to operate the e-bike taxis,” he said.