Panaji: Fed up with defiant taxi operators, Goa Department of Transport has started talks with app-based taxi aggregator Whoatransport minister Mauvin Godinho said on Saturday. Godinho said the private company has assured the government that only taxis registered in Goa and operated by Goans will be registered on the application.
Godinho, who lashed out at the taxi industry last week, said talks were still in the preliminary stages. However, he said he intended to launch the app-based service “as soon as possible” in Goa.
“We are still in negotiations. I told my officers to negotiate with both (Ola and Uber) and do what is best for Goa. They are already in talks,” Godinho said, while speaking on the sidelines of the annual general meeting of the Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“I haven’t met them yet. I said, first present the proposal on the table. We are negotiating, discussing how it should be done and the way forward. In the end, it will go to the cabinet,” Godinho said.
Godinho said Ola initiated the talks while Uber has yet to come up with a similar proposal.
“I don’t know about Uber, but what my secretary told me was that Ola made it clear that 100% of taxi drivers will be Goan and no non-Goan taxis will be brought in. Locals will have preference and only local taxis will be available on the app,” Godinho said.
Clarifying the criteria for Goans, he said those with 15 years of domicile will be considered locals.
The transport minister said he had the support of his colleagues and was confident that once the proposal was presented to cabinet, it would pass.
“It’s a major political decision,” he said. “I think it’s high time. I decided as minister that we had to make that decision, and I’m going to be firm on that. I want to do it as soon as possible. I have the support of the other ministers and that is why I moved forward. They already told me to go ahead and they will support me.
Interestingly, his cabinet colleague Rohan Khaunte had different opinions on the matter. Speaking to reporters at the same event, Khaunte said he intended to engage in a discussion with taxi operators to encourage them to create their own app-based taxi service.
“I will take a meeting with the taxi union to start a dialogue and convince them to have a technology-driven product made by them. Through the IT department, we will try to design an application that they can use and consolidate their business model as an association,” said Khaunte, who is Minister of Tourism and IT.
Khaunte said the current practice by taxi drivers of making one trip a day and overcharging passengers must be stopped.
The decision by the state government to introduce app-based taxi services – Ola and Uber – in Goa is a welcome move that will give much respite to locals and tourists from taxi operators. In the absence of efficient public transport services and local taxi operators cheating commuters, app-based services will bring fare parity and ensure that one is not at the mercy of these taxi drivers. While transport and industry minister Mauvin Godinho has taken a step in the right direction and a firm stance as local taxi operators shy away from using digital meters, there is still dissent from his cabinet colleague and tourism minister Rohan Khaunte, who seems to be nursing a sweet spot for these taxi drivers. If Goa is to be the tourist capital of the country, as stated by CM Pramod Sawant, it is imperative that it establishes its transport system, giving people the choice of choosing the mode of transport rather than appeasing a section for polling bank policy.