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Now Kerala government plans to regulate cab aggregators, proposes a draft policy

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Joining the footsteps of Karnataka government, Kerala government has now drafted a set of rules to regulate cab aggregators. And it has taken inspiration of many rules from the book of Karnataka government.

These include mandatory license, GPS installation in cabs,government pricing, panic button in app, etc. According to a report in the Livemint, Kerala government will initiate broad discussions with all stakeholders this month before it turns it into law.

The draft policy defines a cab aggregator as digital intermediary between a passenger and driver of a motor cab having valid permit under existing rules. The digital medium can include any tech driven platform such as mobile applications, web applications, or call centres. The taxi companies need to register under the 1956 Companies Act  and comply with regulations under the IT Act (2000). These companies can get license to operate their service for an initial period of three years.

The document titled “Kerala on-demand information technology based transportation scheme (2016)” also lays down rules for drivers. Drivers operating these taxi cabs need  to pay an annual fees of INR 100 to the transport department. Cab aggregators have to ensure that the track record of drivers is clean to maintain security of passengers. The document has also proposed cancellation of company’s license in the event of any harassment complaint by any driver.

Moreover, the draft also proposes that government will set up pricing for these taxi cabs. Commenting on this, Tomin J. Thachankary, head of Kerala’s transport department,  who has drafted the report said,

Since the government will set prices, surge-pricing practised by existing online cab operators will end.

And Uber once again might not be too happy with the clause. There are in fact more reasons which can lead Uber to once again start a battle against another state authority. In addition to pricing and licensing restrictions, the rules also mandate taxi cabs to install GPS-based trackers, panic button in app, 24/7 call centre for customers,etc.

Notably, Uber had already filed a petition in Karnataka court against similar regulations. Karnataka government is yet to give its verdict on the matter but Uber might be looking at a similar battle in Kerala now.

However, Nitin Nair, general manager, Uber, Kerala sees the new draft policy as recognition by government. In a statement, Nair said,

We believe government’s move to roll out regulations for app-based ride hailing services is a recognition of this new sector and the role we play in bringing urban mobility solutions.We are engaged with the state government and policymakers through constructive dialogue and would continue to work closely.

Uber is currently present in two cities of Kerala namely Kochi and Thiruvanthapuram.

Another taxi cab service, Meru has appreciated this step of Kerala government. Rahul Kapani, director, Meru said in a statement,

We are extremely pleased with the way Kerala has now taken this up and is working towards taming the city taxi/cab aggregation solution. This step will certainly address a crucial gap in public transport in a constructive manner and improve availability, transparency and safety for passengers, and enhance consumer trust towards city taxis. Moreover it will create level playing field in long term, which is much needed to ensure a healthy competitive scenario.

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