A couple of days ago, I was running late for a meeting and wasn’t getting any cabs or rickshaws to reach the venue. I decided to use a popular cab-hailing app, which sends the cab to your location.
With an ETA of 5 minutes, the driver called asking for my exact location. I told him I was near the taxi stand. Upon hearing this, he requested me to walk a few yards away from that stand and get into his cab. I asked him the reason and he meekly said that the taxi drivers standing there won’t take kindly to him if he was seen in the vicinity of “their” area.
This little incident brought back flashes of all those recent newspaper reports I had read about taxi/auto unions protesting against tech-enabled cab-hailing apps; these protests also included a strike (at least here in Mumbai) by the union, which ironically led to increased usage of these apps by the commuters.
The main grouse these unions had was that these app-based cabs were snaring away customers and thus impacted their livelihood. They also cited technicalities related to permits and non-compliance.
Much of this is true, but does that mean these app-based cabs operators should be banished? Certainly, not.
On the other hand, has this tech-enabled service changed daily commuting for the better? The answer is a resounding yes. They have forced the conventional cabbies to start thinking about the passengers and their travel experience, and not just the fare and their own earnings. Despite all the benefits, the protesters stand their ground to this day and continue to oppose (in their own ways) these cars from freely functioning, but to no avail.
Cut to Delhi where a similar situation ensues
A newly formed party with a radical positioning and disruptive attitude is gradually eating away political capital from the established parties. After an incredible electoral performance (wining 95% of the seats) in the national capital that shocked every political pundit worth his/her salt, the party looks all set to conquer another important state, Punjab, which too has long suffered at the hands of corrupt politicians.
The central government whose victory “rath” was not just stopped but demolished by this party now looks caught in an ugly power struggle with this seemingly young party for some time now. From using the LG as a pawn to nag and gag a democratically elected government to causing unheard of bureaucrat strikes and CBI raids, the central government has tried everything in its power to disturb and dislodge this government.
So, does this mean that AAP will be history soon?
Yes. More like, it will create history and change the political ecosystem forever. Like any other passionate start-ups fighting against a tardy system, AAP continues to trade blows and remains firmly footed.
Meanwhile, the general electorate (the youth in particular) of this country is increasingly becoming disillusioned with the current government’s hollow promises and regressive policies. The economy and the country aren’t doing any better than they were earlier. Agreed that PM Modi stands for governance and quick decision making, but his cabinet and the various ministries aren’t doing much to help his case.
Communal groups and fringe elements are making their presence/authority felt all over the country and none of this impresses a nation comprising the world’s largest and youngest workforce.
Therefore, there must be talks in the corridors of power about the rising stature of Arvind Kejriwal and his growing clout and following, especially among the youth.
In face of these odds, what will the government do to protect their political territory? Will it do what the taxi unions did (protests, strikes, threats, etc.), and inconvenience the common man? Even a cursory reading of the political situation in the country should give you the answer.
As for the end result, here’s a fact: taxi unions in Mumbai will go on another strike on 15 Feb, 2016 seeking a ban on app-cabs, while Ola Cabs is aiming to touch 3 million rides a day by April 2016.
The author is a resident of Mumbai. Views expressed here are author’s own