Smooth ride eludes Uber, Ola in Odisha capital

Bhubaneswar: Pramod Kumar Behera, an Uber driver in Odisha capital, has cancelled around 30 rides in the last one year fearing attacks by auto-rickshaw drivers at various parts in capital city.

He said he is bound to cancel the bookings from certain areas as his boss has categorically instructed him not to put his life in danger nor get the vehicle damaged putting everything at stake.

“It feels like someone is depriving me of my fundamental rights,” said Behera, who had been a chauffeur in the city for 20 years.

Behera is not the lone victim of such assault or high-handedness.

Milan Digal, another driver with the cab aggregator, has a horrific tale to tell as he has been doing his job with fear, having no fault of his.

He was attacked and his vehicle was damaged allegedly by some auto drivers following an altercation at KIIT Square when he was on the way to drop a passenger who had to go to the private university.

“While I was inside my car near HDFC bank on KIIT campus, three people came in an auto and asked me to come out of the car. When I got out they hit me on my head without any provocation. Later, I got to know that they are targeting Ola and Uber cabs inside the campus,” said Digal.

The auto-rickshaw drivers at KIIT Square are giving a tough time to Ola and Uber cab drivers during pickup and drop of passengers along Magnet Square and Sikhar Chandi stretch.

Sources said there are many places mostly at auto stands in the city where the cab drivers feel threatened.

KIIT Square, Hi-Tech Square, SUM Hospital Square, near BMC Bhawani mall, AIIMS, Baramunda bus stop, near IIIT and Xavier University where cab drivers are being targeted and attacked while going to pick and drop passengers, a cab driver revealed on condition of anonymity.

“Around 4-5 cases like threatening and attacking our drivers and sometimes damaging of vehicles come to our notice from different places in the city everyday. Some local youths who are driving autos are behaving like the roads are owned by them and it’s getting worse day by day,” said Rajkishore Das, working president of All Odisha Cabs Welfare Association.

He also said that despite police complaints nothing has changed so far. “As some local political leaders are involved with auto association therefore some auto drivers continue their unruliness,” Das added.

He said as many as 3,000 Ola and Uber cabs are currently running in Bhubaneswar.

It is learnt that most of the auto drivers are resorting to violence to intimidate cab drivers fearing loss of earnings.

Several times in the past meetings were held between auto and cab associations in presence of police and city authorities for an amicable solution.

An official of the auto association said it was decided in a meeting that Ola and Uber cabs should not be parked or take passengers from any auto stands as this will take business out of the traditional transporters who were in the city for many years.

“In our earlier meeting, we had discussed the ways for survival of the both (autos and cabs) and have been following it. Sometimes, some local youths who are driving autos might have been targeting cab drivers finding them taking passengers near auto stands,” said Bhubaneswar Auto Mahasangha’s general secretary Padman Kumar Samal.

He also said that cab aggregators are doing monopoly business when it comes to fixing fares. “Like in case of autos, the government must fix passenger fare for Ola and Uber cabs to make the market competitive for all,” Samal suggested.

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