Bengaluru: Stir intensifies, cabbies on hunger strike

Drivers accuse Ola, Uber managements of corporate rowdyism. Deny involvement in assaulting other drivers.

Bengaluru: Ola and Uber drivers, who have been striking work since February 22, began a hunger strike and protest at Freedom Park on Wednesday. The strike now has the backing of JD (S) leader and former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy.

"We are going on indefinite hunger strike until we get justice. When they needed to grow, Ola and Uber roped in drivers with offers of '1 lakh per month. Today we earn '15,000 to '20,000 a month," said Manjunath a driver from the Karnataka Drivers and Owners Welfare Association.

Around 15 driver associations gathered at Freedom Park at 11 am, raising slogans and placards. When they began the strike company officials and the government ignored their demands and expected it to fizzle out in few days.

However the agitation has gained momentum with more associations joining it.
"Every day, they tell us about varying plans to earn money. They used to give us '5,000 incentive for 10 trips a day. For the same amount, we now have to do 18 trips. How can we meet our monthly expenses of loan, children's school fees and food?" argued Indresh, another driver.

A group of drivers told Deccan Chronicle that commission was being cut from their pay and incentives as well. Another driver Satish claimed that those indulged in violence by stopping other cabs, harass passengers and beat up the drivers were men from the cab company themselves.

"Why will a driver beat up a fellow driver? We are all suffering. They promised us that, '10,000 will be paid to recover the car damage cost, apart from paying for our phone repair. When I went to claim the amount for my damaged car, they told me to get it covered through insurance," Satish informed.

As the protests went on with thousands of drivers, some started receiving SMSs from their company. "Today, they sent messages with false promises of giving us a home and car, when some of us do not even have insurance. They increased the commission from 10 per cent to 25 per cent and expect us to survive," a driver told Deccan Chronicle.

"The cab companies are indulging in corporate rowdyism. They employ bouncers to beat up drivers, who come to share their grievances. All we want is the meter to be fixed, as stated in the Karnataka Cab Aggregator policy. We do not even want incentives," informed Kiran Gowda, State President of Karunada Rajya Taxi Owners and Drivers Association.

Kumaraswamy is expected to attend Thursday’s protest. Earlier he had circulated a video on social media promising support to the drivers and attacked the state government for not intervening to sort out the issue.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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