Goa’s tourist taxis at war again with app-based cabs
· ‘Goamiles is an authorised business initiative drafted and crafted by Goa Tourism Development Corp,’ – said Goamiles spokesperson
· Ola taxi services were introduced in Goa in 2014, but were soon stopped by the state transport department
The recurring war between tourist taxi drivers versus operators of the state’s only app-based taxi service, Goamiles, saw a sudden spurt over the last 24 hours, with several Goamiles taxi drivers being threatened, one of their taxis stoned and a coastal village panchayat poised to ban them from its jurisdiction.
On Saturday, Goamiles spokesperson Justine Nunes said that while the agency is authorised by the Goa Tourism Development Corporation, there are, however, vested interests who are creating trouble for its drivers, which is causing hardship to tourists.
“Lately lots of people with vested interests are working against this initiative and creating lots of trouble for the taxi owners and drivers who have opted to be a part of the Goamiles service,” – Nunes said, on a day when Nationalist Congress Party MLA Churchill Alemao led a protesting group of taxi drivers to a tourist resort where Goamiles taxis were parked and stoned one vehicle, forcing the drivers to move their vehicles out.
“These Goamiles taxis are threatening the livelhood of our local taxi drivers. They cannot be allowed to operate in Goa,” – Alemao told reporters.
“Goamiles is an authorised business initiative drafted and crafted by Goa Tourism Development Corp. This initiative is mainly in the interest of Goan taxi owners and tourists visiting Goa to have a win-win situation for all stakeholders,” – Nunes said.
We feel this successful concept has been misunderstood by some local taxi owners due to vested interests of few,” he added.
A section of Goa’s 10,000 odd tourist taxis and their drivers have often been accused of over-charging, intimidating and operating in an unregulated environment.
Several attempts by the state government to install and implement a fare-meter system have failed, even as members of the taxi lobby have also attacked tour coach buses ferrying foreign tourists, accusing tour operators of depriving them of business.
Some years back, a flare-up between a Russian travel operator and a local taxi owner resulted in the murder of the latter, sparking hostilities between locals and Russian tourists, who account for a large chunk of the half million foreign tourists who visit the state every year.
The state also attracts more than seven million domestic tourists every year, who often face hardship due to the overpriced and irregular public transports system.
Ola taxi services were introduced in Goa in 2014, but were soon stopped by the state transport department following protests by local taxi operators.
Following complaints by tourists and tourism industry stakeholders about overcharging by taxi operators, the government-operated Goa Tourism Development Corporation partnered with a private agency to set up Goamiles a couple of years back as a response to some fervent petitioning.
But the politically savvy taxi lobby has been opposed to the app-based operator, claiming it infringes on their business.
On Sunday (June 2), the village panchayat of Anjuna-Caisua, in whose jurisdiction several prime beaches are located, has called an extraordinary meeting to pass a resolution to ban Goamiles cabs from its jurisdiction.
Goamiles has strongly criticised the move as being illegal and beyond the scope of a village panchayat’s duties.
“It further points out that this move will affect hundreds of families in the village who are connected with the app-based service and earning a livelihood to support their families,” Nunes said.
The legal terms are clear. Many of the app-based taxi owners and drivers are also part of the village panchayat and the resolution passed by the panchayats will adversely affect their interests, the spokesperson added.
Goa government announces plan to protect GoaMIles
The Goa government announced it will provide protection to the mobile-application based taxi service in the coastal state in the wake of recent incidents of violence.
Chief Minister Pramod Sawant also appealed to traditional taxi operators to desist from taking the law into their hands. “The government would provide protection to the app-based taxi operators who have been facing violence from certain quarters. We appeal to those who indulge in violence against app-based taxi operators to mend their ways. They should also join the app-based taxi service,” he said.
The Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) had introduced app-based taxi service, ‘Goa Miles’, in 2018, which has been facing opposition from traditional service operators.
Last week, a taxi assigned to Goa Miles was attacked at Colva beach in South Goa, allegedly by traditional taxi operators. Sawant said it was the responsibility of the state government to provide affordable taxi service to the tourists. “The system of app-based taxi service is prevalent across the world, but Goa is the only exception,” he said.
The chief minister said, “If the taxi operators find that moving to app-based taxi service would affect their business then we can think over it”.