Following the one-day protest by gig workers in Pune on Wednesday, during which they temporarily suspended their services in the city, numerous commuters and restaurant owners experienced disruptions. Pune Maharashtra Parivahan Mahamandal Limited (PMPML) temporarily expanded bus services for a day, extending routes from Lohegaon to the airport area.
The strike by Ola and Uber drivers left many passengers searching for alternative transportation options within a few kilometres of the airport.
At the same time, many restaurant owners had to temporarily shut down their delivery services due to a shortage of available delivery partners.
Last week, the Indian Gig Workers’ Front (IGF) in Pune organised a one-day strike urging the state government to enact the Platform-Based Gig Workers (Registration and Welfare) Bill 2023 and adhere to the Cab Aggregator guidelines proposed by the Supreme Court a few months ago.
The IGF handed over their formal request to both the Collectorate office and the Regional Transport Office (RTO) on Wednesday and described their demonstration as having a significant impact. The president of IGF stressed the Bill’s urgency in the state while citing a recent incident where a delivery boy was assaulted and narrowly escaped a gunshot on Lohegaon Road in Wagholi.
He said, “The young delivery boys, who operate during nighttime hours to fulfill customer orders, often endure harassment. Several customers, especially those consuming alcohol, sometimes refuse to pay, preferring to enjoy themselves with friends and, at times, engaging in altercations with the young boys.”
He added, “The Bill will encompass not only health insurance, accident coverage, and various financial support measures but also ensure social security in unfortunate incidents.”
During the strike, The Indian Express found that a number of outlets in different parts of the city had suspended their delivery services. Among the 41 pizza outlets of an international chain in Pune, 39 were displaying “no delivery” status, and a similar trend was noticed with other hotels and restaurants.
Owner of Amritsari Kulcha, a restaurant in Wakad, said they saw 50-60 per cent drop in orders. “The apps were automatically turning our status to ‘offline’ perhaps due to unavailability of delivery personnel,” said Raj Jaiswal, owner.
Another restaurant owner, operating the Yin Yang Bistro in Kothrud, shared his difficulties in receiving orders when compared to regular days. “On an average day, we handle around 10 orders per hour. However, today, we’ve only managed to receive two or three orders per hour. During our evening session, starting at 7 pm, we received just a single order, and we received numerous customer calls, all expressing frustration about the unavailability of our delivery services,” said Chaitanya Chede, owner.
According to Shibendra Halder, Deputy General Manager of Operations at Aeromall Pune, passengers did not experience a shortage of vehicles, although the number of available cabs was lower than usual. He stated, “I had some concerns initially, but there were no significant problems encountered by passengers. We had alternative cab options, and PMPML also offered us a one-day service.”
While numerous internet users in Pune expressed their concerns about the hiked prices charged by independent auto-rickshaw drivers, some travelers also encountered this issue at railway stations and areas near the airport. Aman Dangi, who had travelled from Bhopal, faced a slight issue while attempting to book a cab but managed to resolve it. He said, “When I tried to book a cab, the displayed fare was around Rs 500 from the station to Hinjewadi. However, auto-rickshaw drivers were requesting Rs 800 for the same journey.”
In response, the auto-rickshaw drivers stated that they were charging a reasonable amount as per the meter, whereas ride-sharing companies like Ola and Uber were offering lower prices to customers. He said, “The aggregator companies are reducing the amount for their profit which is not only affecting their drivers but us as well. Companies take 35 to 40 percent of commission from them but fare less charges to customers.
As per the drivers, these companies deviate from the market prices by offering lower fares to customers while simultaneously taking a substantial commission from the drivers’ earnings.
This set-up is perceived as exploiting both company drivers and independent meter-equipped auto-rickshaw operators. Consequently, the meter-based auto-rickshaw drivers are advocating these cabs relocate their services to the outskirts of the city, rather than operating within the city.
Deputy Commissioner of RTO Pune, Sanjeev Bhor, said he has already forwarded the proposal to the higher authorities, and the decisions regarding it will be determined in the future.