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‘Kerala Savari’: India’s first online taxi service as a public option

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kerala Savari

Mains level : Cab aggregators malpractices and their regulation in India

Kerala has soft launched ‘Kerala Savari’, the country’s first online taxi service owned by a State government, to ensure fair and decent service to passengers along with fair remuneration to auto-taxi workers.

What is Kerala Savari?

  • Operated by the Motor Workers Welfare Board under the aegis of the Labour Department, the Kerala Savari ensures safe travel for the public at ‘government approved fares’ without any ‘surge pricing’.
  • The ‘Kerala Savari’ app would be made available to the public on online platforms shortly as it is under the scrutiny of Google now.

Why such initiative?

  • The alleged unfair trade practices and violation of consumer rights by private app-based cab aggregators have come as a major concern for governments.
  • Recently, the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) had issued notices to cab aggregators Ola and Uber for unfair trade practices and violation of consumer rights which include:
  1. Charging exorbitant fares during peak hours
  2. Unprofessional behaviour from the part of drivers
  3. Lack of proper response from customer support, and
  4. Undue levy of cancellation charges despite the cab driver refusing to accept the ride booked by the passenger etc.
  • It is against this backdrop that the Kerala government has decided to come up with an app-based platform to offer auto-taxi service for the public.

What are the main attractions of ‘Kerala Savari’?

  • There will be no fluctuation in fares on Kerala Savari irrespective of day or night or rain.
  • But Kerala Savari only 8% service charge in addition to the rate set by the government, whereas the private cab aggregators charge up to 20 to 30% service charge.

What are the security-related features of ‘Kerala Savari’?

  • Kerala Savari is claimed as a safe and reliable online service for women, children, and senior citizens.
  • This consideration has been given importance in app designing and driver registration.
  • A police clearance certificate is mandatory for drivers joining the scheme apart from the required proper training.
  • A panic button system has been introduced in the app.
  • It has also been decided to install GPS in vehicles at a subsidised rate.

Will the new government initiative end the monopoly of private cab aggregators?

  • Kerala has over five lakh autorickshaws and one lakh cabs.
  • The State government plans to bring all auto-taxi workers engaged in the sector under the new platform.
  • Since smartphone literacy is high in Kerala, the State is hopeful of bringing them under the scheme in a short span of time.
  • In addition, the Kerala government has also decided to provide fuel, insurance, and tyre subsidies for vehicle owners in the future and has already initiated talks with major companies in this regard.
  • After the evaluation of the first phase of the project in Thiruvananthapuram, it will be extended to the entire State in a phased manner.
  • Kerala Savari is expected to reach Kollam, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Kozhikode, and Kannur municipal limits within a month.
Regulation of Cab Aggregators in India

  • The Motor Vehicles Amendment Act 2019 seeks to regulate Cab aggregators in India
  • It’s the first time cab aggregators have got statutory recognition as “digital intermediaries” or “transport aggregators”.
  • They are now defined as marketplaces that can be used by passengers to connect with a driver for moving from one place to another.
  • The Centre will issue broad guidelines from time to time and the states will rely on them to frame their own rules to regulate the industry.
  • The aggregators will also have to comply with the provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
  • This means they will have to follow rules on storing data safely to protect the identity of users.

 

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