Political economy of introducing competition in taxi services in Goa

There is something about Goa which makes tourists just pay through their nose without any protest. Perhaps Goa means total freedom and tourists just don;t want to haggle over pity things as cab fares. However, for others there is little doubt that tourism mobility in the city is highly expensive which is ironical as the city thrives so much on tourist mobility.

Not anymore. People are protesting about the taxi fares in Goa and want competition to break the taxi union. It wants introduction of app based ola and uber services in Goa. One would imagine GOa to be one of the first to introduce such services. But thanks to lobbying by taxi unions, they have kept competing forcs away.

This article by Pamela D’Mello informs about the political economy of taxi services in Goa:

It’s “a good effort to eradicate loot”, claims one post. Says another, “Goa needs this change.” Agrees a third, “The taxi mafia must be ended.”

Ever an online campaign called the Taxi Revolution in Goa launched its Facebook page in April, it has been flooded with demands for the state’s inefficient cab service to be regulated. As visitors to the state well know, taxis in Goa are plagued by arbitrary rates. Customers have to pay return fare even if they take a one-way journey.

“Whenever I have to go to the airport, I have to rely on family and friends to drop me off since taxi rates are so exorbitant,” said Mahesh Bharve, who helps run the campaign. “Sometimes I have no option but to pay what they ask.”

The Taxi Revolutions is among the various groups that has been urging the government to allow app-based taxi services such as Uber and Ola to operate in the state – a move that the powerful taxi unions have blocked so far. In 2014, they even went on strike to protest a proposal to license app-based cabs.

Since cabs are the main mode of transport for visitors, Goa’s tourism industry is especially keen that the system should be rationalised. At least two major state dailies are also supporting this demand. But even as alternatives are being discussed, the state’s political parties are treading warily, eager to avoid angering the powerful tourist taxi unions.

Taxi union leaders have sought the help of the powerful Goa Forward Party ministers in the coalition government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party. The Aam Aadmi Party has sounded support for the taximen, while Congress state chief Luizinho Faleiro said the government cannot take a unilateral decision without consulting all stakeholders.

The BJP-led regime is not particularly keen on allowing Ola and Uber operating in the state either. Instead, it is pushing for a local app-based system, to be run by the Goa Tourism Development Corporation. However, in its attempt to gain some leverage, it has threatened to allow Uber and Ola to operate in the state if the the unions refuse to submit to regulation.

A typical political economy case. Despite arbitrary fares,  local taxi players protest saying the fares are not much as they can barely afford a family.

Ideally, there would have been no need for app based solutions if the common-sense solutions were working. People travel quite a bit these days and are able to compare the fares across cities. The arbitrary pricing could not have continued forever..

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