The other morning during my early morning walk, instead of walking on my usual route, I decided to go towards the main road in my area. Near the traffic signal, I noticed at least 5-6 cabs waiting, with their drivers inside them sleeping or resting. It obviously was not a pretty sight. First of all, the cabs were parked inside no parking area, plus the drivers were certainly missing sleep. I work in Eon IT Park in Pune, almost 25 km from home. Until now, I used to drive on my own, or carpool with someone occasionally. Since last few weeks, we got cab facility and I naturally grabbed it by both hands. And a whole new world of cab and cab drivers opened in front of me.
Pune never had taxis or cabs until few years back. All we had was auto rickshaws. As Pune Mumbai express highway opened itself in year 2000, we started seeing taxis in the city. I am sure some of you might remember those blue colored cool cabs providing service between Pune and Mumbai via express highway. With the advent of call center business to Pune, the culture of cab services to employees started. The main reason being that call centers typically operate in evening and night shifts. This requires employees to be transported to ensure they are in on time to take the calls. Let me shed some light on how these cabs operate. Companies would typically engage a travel service company which either owns fleet of cabs or has cabs individuals who are either drivers themselves or others who would lease out them. The employee rosters are created, pick up points are decided, transport desk phone contact is setup. Depending on employees who would be availing cab facility on any days, they are free to optimize number of cabs on the road. Many times, this means drivers ending up working late hours, and I mean really late hours. They virtually live in those cabs. Most of them are addicted to chewing tobacco and/or gutaka, also are habitual of spitting on the road, by open the door of the car in motion. The general hygiene factor of these drivers and cars also is a big question.
As the famed economic reforms of 1991 happened, slowly automobile industry opened up, more models of cars started arriving, more people buying them as well. The private tourist vehicle industry also thrived. These were generally for outstations tours, having minimum requirement of 300 km per day, at the beginning. Later as mentioned above, adopted themselves to the demands of IT companies for city limit transport, round the clock. Then we see the advent cab aggregators, which is the latest trend in the cab business with players such as Ola, Uber. They are aggressively pushing commuters to use their services. While it is causing convenience, but also has been causing social issues, especially from commuters security perspective, and also from drivers’ way of life perspective. The situation is much more severe in the bigger cities such as Bengaluru where driver and commuters alike are traveling length and breadth of the city.
It is certainly heartening to know that more and more people are now car-pooling. I had written a blog on the need for this, few years ago, sighting the problems created by explosion of cars on the road. I believe only time will tell where this is all going to lead, especially, in the shrinked, and cramped city-scapes, with fleet and army of cabs, just few meters away from you, waiting for you, as shown on the Google Map on their apps.