Drivers who have benefitted from a steady stream of income over the past 5 years are now staring at losses, thanks to the new passenger safety rules upheld by the Karnataka HC.

Till about five years ago, Bengaluru residents had no option but to hire an auto-rickshaw for everyday travel within the city. It was difficult to avail them late in the night, or in sparsely populated neighbourhoods. Demands for ‘one-and-a-half’ or ‘double’ the price on the meters were regular. Cabs were too expensive. This scenario changed drastically when Ola was launched in 2011, and then two years later Uber rolled in. These app-based cab aggregators offered various incentives for both the drivers and customers, which created a comfortable situation in a competitive market.

Cab-aggregator services like Ola and Uber also created a new ecosystem for drivers, giving them the opportunity to earn more.

Today, the entire ecosystem is at the risk of being lost. The Karnataka government’s rules for these services, some of which have been upheld by the Karnataka High Court, could be spelling financial doom for the drivers, rendering the technological disruptions meaningless.

New tech vs archaic rules

In early 2016, the Karnataka government issued a new set of guidelines termed ‘Karnataka On-demand Transportation Technology Aggregators Rule, 2016’ that cab aggregators had to follow. This included licensing, and several other rules meant to protect passenger safety. Read here on why some of the rules are seen as absurd.

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