Bengaluru’s Auto and Cab Drivers Protest Leads to Crackdown on Illegal Bike Taxis

The bustling city of Bengaluru witnessed a significant development in its transport sector following a massive protest by auto and cab drivers on Thursday. The drivers demanded stringent action against illegal bike taxis operating in the city and called for the immediate implementation of the ‘one city, one cab fare’ policy by the state transport department. This movement was a clear indication of the growing frustration among licensed drivers who felt their livelihoods were being threatened by unregulated bike taxi services.

In response to these protests, a rigorous enforcement operation was launched by the state transport department. C Mallikarjun, Additional Commissioner of Transport (Enforcement, South), provided insights into the operation, revealing that 29 of the confiscated vehicles were electric bike taxis. The crackdown involved 10 Regional Transport Officers (RTOs) and one assistant RTO, demonstrating the department’s commitment to addressing the concerns raised by the auto-rickshaw drivers.

The impetus for this enforcement action stemmed from the state government’s decision to abolish the Karnataka Electric Bike Taxi Scheme, 2021, due to widespread misuse. This scheme had initially been introduced to promote eco-friendly transportation options but had instead seen significant deviations from its intended purpose. The department’s decision to take action was further bolstered by a growing outcry from the local transport community.

Despite a previous court order that had restrained such actions, the department moved forward with the crackdown. OLA (ANI Technologies) was identified as the only legitimate provider of electric bike services in Bengaluru, while other services from companies like Rapido, OLA, and Uber were found operating illegally using personal vehicles with white registration plates.

Violators caught in this enforcement drive face penalties starting at ₹5,000, along with the impoundment of their vehicles. However, detailed information on the exact penalties collected during this operation remains undisclosed. The enforcement efforts reflect a serious attempt to regulate the transport sector and ensure that all operators adhere to the established legal framework.

Adding to the complexity of the situation, the Bike Taxi Welfare Association in Karnataka has argued that their operations are protected under court orders. This stance suggests that there may be further legal battles ahead as both sides strive to protect their interests.

The recent actions by Bengaluru’s transport department underscore the ongoing challenges in balancing innovation and regulation in the city’s transport sector. While electric bike taxis represent a step towards sustainable urban mobility, the need for a well-regulated environment that ensures fair competition and protects the livelihoods of traditional transport operators remains crucial. The outcome of these enforcement actions and the subsequent legal developments will be closely watched by all stakeholders involved.

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