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Private cars may be allowed to taxi on aggregator runway

A report by a high-level task force argues the move could decongest city roads - but it adds that passenger safety concerns would need to be properly addressed.

Updated: Mar 22, 2018, 03.04 PM IST
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the report has also warned that the limited number of aggregator services available in the market today could lead to an oligopoly.
The prospects of ridesharing and private cars being allowed to operate as taxis in the country through aggregators such as Uber and Ola brightened after a high-level panel recommended that taxi permit norms be liberalised with the objective of promoting shared mobility and reducing the number of vehicles on India’s roads.
“Taxi permits may be liberalised so that private cars can easily be converted and used as taxis by service aggregators,” states a report prepared by a high-level taskforce set up to formulate an action plan to reform the country’s transport system and make it less polluting. ET has seen the report finalised by the panel, which included representatives of various ministries and the Niti Aayog government think tank.

The report makes it clear that passenger safety needs to be ensured under such a regime and has to be addressed with proper policy initiatives. It has also warned that the limited number of aggregator services available in the market today could lead to an oligopoly.

“These concerns need to be addressed through policy dialogue with all concerned stakeholders,” a top government official said.

These concerns notwithstanding, the proposal will be welcomed by companies such as Uber. In an interview to ET last month, Uber global CEO Dara Khosrowshahi had said his company was supportive of private car-sharing. “We think that it (private car-sharing) takes advantage of the assets that are already here on the road.

If you look in Delhi, 70% of the cars are driving with one passenger, and we think private car-sharing opens up the opportunity for drivers for a much broader base and it allows Indian cities and governments to make better use of the assets that are on the ground and hopefully can be a positive factor in solving congestion,” said Khosrowshahi.

Uber is allowed to use private cars for ride-sharing in countries such as the US, Australia and Singapore.

Ironically, the task force has submitted its ride-sharing recommendation at a time when Uber and Ola drivers are on strike in Mumbai and similar strikes are being planned in Delhi and Bengaluru as well. One of the demand of the drivers is that they should be guaranteed a minimum number of ride duties.

Last month, addressing delegates at the ET Global Business Summit, road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari said there was an urgent need to control the number of private vehicles on the road and public transport based on new technology should be promoted.

Passenger vehicle sales in India crossed the three million mark for the first time in FY17, with the segment witnessing growth of 9.23%. The Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) expects passenger vehicle sales to grow at the upper end of its previous estimate of 7-9% this year thanks to upbeat consumer sentiment across rural and urban centres.

India’s cities are among the worst polluted in the world amid uncontrolled expansion and an explosion in the number of vehicles on increasingly clogged roads, taking a toll on public health. The government has advanced the introduction of emission standards while Delhi has experimented with an odd-even scheme as part of efforts toward a less-toxic environment.

The task force has also proposed banning high-polluting vehicles, such as pre-BS-III ones, during peak pollution periods such as the three-month winter season when the capital is worst hit. Other recommendations on reducing congestion include making public transport mandatory for government officials on specific days of the week along with levying high parking fees on key roads.

The Niti Aayog had set up four task forces in July last year to prepare a roadmap for reducing pollution levels in the country on transport, biofuels, industries and airborne pollution. They included sectoral experts, industry leaders, Niti Aayog officials and top-level representatives of the ministries of transport, environment and petroleum, the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

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