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Delhi’s taxi regulations amended to bring Uber and others back

The Delhi transport department has amended and notified the Radio Taxi Scheme, 2006 on Monday paving the way for taxi companies like Uber, Ola Cabs and TaxiForSure to return on the roads legally.

The amended regulation has allowed not just fleet owners but also aggregators to get a license. The minimum fleet size of 500 has also been reduced to less than a half enabling smaller players to enter the trade. However, their ride may not be completely smooth. 

Any firm seeking a license in Delhi – be it a fleet owner or an aggregator—will have to meet many mandatory requirements set by the authority such as having a calibrated meter prefixed in the car along with a GPS device. All cars on the network will also necessarily have to run on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). This may curtail expansion of firms such as Uber, which relied heavily on unused inventory — a majority of which were diesel or petrol cars. 

The amendment comes within a month of web-based taxi companies getting banned in Delhi after a taxi driver on Uber’s network allegedly raped a finance executive in early December. It means that firms such as Ola and TaxiForSure including Uber can restart their services in the national capital provided they seek a license from the Delhi Transport Authority under the new Scheme.

According to an official of the Delhi Transport Authority, the new law has reduced the minimum fleet size required by a company from 500 earlier to 200 now. At the time of seeking a license, a firm can start with 50 cars but will have to expand the number to 200 within six months. “They don’t have to necessarily own the cars, they can hire or lease the services from individuals or operators provided they take ownership of the drivers,” the official added. Taking responsibility spells verifying the antecedents of the drivers and maintaining a database which can be shared with the police at regular intervals for verification purposes, added the official.

Despite the fast-track relief, a past Supreme Court ruling which requires all private transport in the Capital to run only on CNG may clog the growth of taxi companies. A significant percentage of vehicles plying through the network of taxi aggregators were from the taxi operators holding all India taxi permits who would lend their cars during their downtime. This made their businesses more efficient and increased their revenues. They may have to convert their vehicles to CNG incurring significant cost in order to be compliant. 

Meanwhile, Uber represented its case in front of the authority on Monday morning which was hearing its plea against a ban on the direction of the Delhi High Court. The company has sought time to file additional documents on Tuesday said the transport authority official quoted above. “The authority which is acting as a quasi judicial body will pass orders after satisfying itself with the company’s response,” the official added. But, the company may not have to wait for the ban to be revoked as it can apply for a license under the new terms and start operations, said the official.

Meanwhile, Uber said in a statement, it is withholding comment, since the matter is sub judice and all the information solicited has been provided to the authorities. “We appreciate the government’s due process to achieve a common goal which puts interests of consumers first – access to safe, reliable and efficient transportation alternatives that technologies like Uber provide. We look forward to a positive outcome which benefits the people of Delhi.” Over the last few weeks, Uber has introduced new India-specific safety features to strengthen existing mechanisms, it added.

On Saturday, the US-based taxi aggregator reached out to its users seeking their support towards its return. Over 7,500 people have signed a petition (#BringUberBack) so far to bring Uber back. The company claims to have put five additional layers of security to ensure safer trips for its users in India.

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