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App cab fare surge for polls and heat

Nearly 2,200 vehicles have been requisitioned for the last phase of the Lok Sabha polls on May 19 alone

By Kinsuk Basu in Calcutta

  • Published 17.05.19, 2:21 AM
  • Updated 17.05.19, 2:21 AM
App cabs requisitioned for the elections parked at a temporary police camp set up on a plot near the Mohun Bagan Athletic Club.
App cabs requisitioned for the elections parked at a temporary police camp set up on a plot near the Mohun Bagan Athletic Club. Picture by Bishwarup Dutta

Elections and the recent swelter spell have sent app cab fares rocketing in the city.

A ride from Kasba to Behala that would cost between Rs 160 and Rs 210 a few days ago is now available at nearly double the rate between Rs 350 and Rs 450, commuters have alleged.

Drivers blame the “dynamic pricing” on greater demand than supply.

Nearly 2,200 vehicles have been requisitioned for the last phase of the Lok Sabha polls on May 19 alone, Calcutta police officers said.

Fewer available cars have pushed the fares up. A Uber ride from Kasba to Narendrapur cost Rs 425 last Thursday, up from the usual fare of Rs 230.

A passenger who took a ride from Esplanade to the Ruby rotary on the EM Bypass last Wednesday had to shell out Rs 485 for the trip that usually costs around Rs 220.

“The fares are on the higher side all day. Whenever I check my app, the fare to a particular destination is three to four times higher than the usual rate,” a rider said.

Twenty-five traffic guards have been asked to requisition vehicles for the elections. A temporary police camp has been set up on a plot of land adjoining the Mohun Bagan Athletic Club near Strand Road to park the vehicles.

Buses, Matadors, jeeps and SUVs, many of which operate as app cabs, have been requisitioned to facilitate movement of security forces across nine divisions of Calcutta police and to ferry Election Commission personnel, including observers and micro observers, to polling premises.

“I was on my way back from the airport on Sunday when traffic sergeants stopped my car and slapped a sticker on it, asking me to report the next morning,” said Ashok Shaw, an app cab driver. “I was put on poll duty and had to log off from the app-cab platform.”

Some cab owners have garaged their cars to avoid poll duty.

Among those who are still plying their vehicles, some app cab drivers have taken to staying off the road in the afternoons when the sun is at its most scorching.

“I used to step out around 8.30-9 in the morning. These days I leave by 6am and return by 2pm, trying to squeeze in as many trips as I can,” said Dilip Mondal, an app cab driver.

App-cab operators admitted the shortage of cars but denied its impact on fares.

“There has been an increase in demand because fewer cabs are available,” an OLA official said. “But we have stuck to the government mandate of not charging more than .45 times the base fare.”

Uber said there has been a dip in the number of vehicles in the Excel category. “But there has been no change in our dynamic pricing policy,” an official said.

An app cab driver said he carried passengers from Belur Math to Park Street one afternoon last week at nearly double the usual fare.

“Passengers are willing to pay as much as Rs 100 more in the afternoon and night for the comfort of AC,” said Subir Kumar Jana, a yellow taxi driver.

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