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And we’re sort of back to square one again. Just when we thought that cab aggregators — Uber, Ola, and others — were operating smoothly in the country, Karnataka government has waved a red flag. The state government is now objecting against carpooling and shared services that are offered by these aggregators. They’re calling it illegal and have given a three-day deadline to stop offering these services to consumers.

As per a report in ET, Karnataka’s Transport Ministry held an hour-long meeting with representatives of aggregator business and drivers to discuss the issue with shared cab services. Post the same, State Transport Commissioner MK Aiyappa announced the carpooling services to be in violation of the Motor Vehicles Act. The cabs aren’t allowed to pick up and drop travelers at multiple locations before stopping the trip. Hence, they are being banned and cannot be allowed to operate in the state.

Though Aiyappa himself is of the opinion that carpooling is a more sustainable option, which helps reduce on-road traffic and pollution. But, the same service being offered by cab aggregators isn’t legal and some policy changes are required. Till then, the aggregators have been asked to make necessary changes to their apps to continue operations in the state. Talking about the same, he further adds,

We explained the matter to them [representatives of cab aggregator services], and they also agreed that what they are doing now is illegal. They will make the changes.

The Karnataka government is offering UberPOOL and Ola Share only a three-day period to withdraw from the state. The said debate about the legality of carpooling services has emerged due to the licenses being issued to these aggregators. The drivers have voiced their concerns over the minimum number of trips and drop in incentives. Some regional transport officers have also raised concerns over the safety of women passengers during a carpool ride. Talking about the same, Suchitra Anish, a brand consultant has said,

Carpool is encouraged in many countries. There are, of course, safety issues but banning is not the solution. Instead, regulators can think of solutions like women-only car pool system if a woman were to book a ride.

In the meeting, Karnataka government said that Ola and Uber both hold contract carriage permits that do not allow them to pick up and drop multiple travelers during a single trip. Their contracts only allowed them to drop customers from Point A to Point B, and not picking up other customers in between. They further added that Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corp (BMTC), school and college buses are only permitted to offer shared services. Aiyappa also said,

The cab aggregators services are now planning to sit down with the Transport Ministry and start work on reforming the Motor Vehicles Act. Aiyappa added to the same, saying,

If the aggregators make a representation, we will study it and recommend for appropriate policies to the government.

Bengaluru, which is one of the most prominent operation for these cab aggregators, will affect their business adversely. The said city lies just in the third place after Delhi and Mumbai. Uber has already voiced its views and defended its carpooling service by calling it the ‘future of urban mobility.’ The statement further added,

Over 25% of our total trips in Bengaluru are shared. In one year, UberPOOL users in the city have saved around…4,40623 litres of fuel and over 10,37,000 kg of carbon emissions.

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