The Ola and Uber drivers' union in Delhi has threatened to launch an indefinite strike if the government does not listen to their demands - namely an extension of a moratorium on loan repayment, and a hike in fares.
Gurpreet Singh, Secretary of Sarvodaya Drivers Association of Delhi, a union of Ola-Uber drivers, told Sputnik, that their income amid the pandemic has been severely hit, and yet the drivers are now being harassed by banks to pay their vehicle loan EMIs, something that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has cautioned against.
"The Prime Minister had asked us to cooperate during the lockdown and assured us all the help in return. He said that banks won't harass us for EMIs. But on ground, we are now being harassed to pay EMIs. Banks warn us of towing our vehicles if we fail to pay the EMIs," Singh said.
The cab drivers maintain that they used to earn $47 a day before lockdown, which has has now declined to just $13. While announcing the lockdown on 25 March, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured citizens of financial help during the crisis.
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) deferred loan repayments in the form of monthly instalments or EMIs until 3 June, and then further extended it until August 31.
Recently, the Indian government told India's Supreme Court that the moratorium on loans can be extended for a period of two years.
However, the catch remains that there has been no decision on reducing the interest rate on EMIs and instalments.
In late 2019, several new cameras were installed to detect traffic signal violations in Delhi and the National Capital region. Since the installation, speeding and other traffic rules violations have spiked almost 10 times.
Gurpreet Singh says that they have received all e-challans from the period of October 2019 to March 2020 at once during the lockdown period.
"Had it been 2-3 challans, we would have been careful in future. But paying for up to 200 challans at once, each ranging between INR 2-3000 (approx. $40), is beyond our capability. So we demand that these penalties be waived off," he said.
Terming certain provisions liable for challans as "unrealistic", such as speeding over 40 miles per hour, the drivers are demanding that the norm be removed from new regulations.
Responding to the development, the Delhi Traffic Police official told Sputnik that the challans are issued only when a rider violates traffic rules, and hence are valid.
The cab union pointed out that it has appealed to the Delhi Chief Arvind Kejriwal and federal Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, but there has been no response yet.
Ola and Uber have also not yet responded to the strike and the appeal of the drivers, which includes demanding higher fares as per the norms stipulated by the federal government.
Meanwhile, there has been no recent response over the strike and the demands put forth by the cab union. The Delhi Chief last year said that he would look into the matter and see "if particular fines under the amended Motor Vehicles Act 2019...can be reduced."