False Hopes & Few Perks: A Glimpse of Ola, Uber Drivers’ Plight
Ola and Uber drivers were protesting in Delhi last week, now it has begun in Bengaluru. (Photo: Altered by <b>The Quint</b>)
Ola and Uber drivers were protesting in Delhi last week, now it has begun in Bengaluru. (Photo: Altered by The Quint)

False Hopes & Few Perks: A Glimpse of Ola, Uber Drivers’ Plight

Bhuwan Singh has been driving with Uber for more than a year now and after the initial bust of incentives, he feels that cab-aggregators have left them dry.

But Bhuwan isn’t the only one with this thought running through his head. Ola and Uber drivers went on a 13-day strike in Delhi/NCR, demanding hike in fare, better treatment of drivers, less working hours and workable ‘Uber Share’ conditions.

The strike was called off on Saturday after Ola and Uber managements agreed to hear out their demands, but neither of them have officially come out and confirmed those reports.

To understand the plight of the drivers, we decided to speak to them individually as passengers, getting to the crux of the problem.

Here’s the full story on drivers, as told by them:

We boarded two Ola and Uber cabs each and asked the drivers about their problems and demands to understand their point of view. After listening to their side of the story, one would definitely sympathise with them.

Globally, Uber has seen mass protests by drivers, and therefore, the reasons mentioned by Bhuwan and other drivers resonate the same feeling.

Sanjay drives for Ola, and bought the WagonR himself, paying Rs 500 per day as instalments. But like others in his community, he echoes the reality that Ola has reduced the incentives from Rs 11,000 to Rs 7,500 per day, a few weeks back.

The incentives have come down. (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)
The incentives have come down. (Photo: The Quint)

After working for more than 20 hours a day, Sanjay and drivers alike have lost the motivation to be on the road for long hours. They just drive for 12-14 hours now, pick up their daily wages and head back home.

Incentives were a big pull for drivers working with Ola and Uber, which has become non-existent these days.

Sharing Isn’t Caring

The other issue that drivers have touched upon is with regards to sharing, where Ola serves with Ola Share and Uber offers UberPool. These services work like car pooling, but at a lower fare than normal. But drivers are not happy with the way Pool works out for them.

Inderjeet was vocal in his displeasure over Uber Pool, as to how the fare of his sedan, Maruti Swift Dzire, is cheaper than an auto rickshaw’s fare.

Uber Pool and Ola Share fetch big numbers for the companies. (Photo Courtesy: Uber)
Uber Pool and Ola Share fetch big numbers for the companies. (Photo Courtesy: Uber)
You can easily hire a Uber Pool, pay Rs 40 and travel for 7 km, which is cheaper than paying for an auto rickshaw. 
Inderjeet, driver with Uber

Then, you also have a situation when three people in a pool cab refuse to let the other person be dropped first. This, as Sanjay puts across, is a torture for the drivers where working out a solution which keeps three of them happy is a ‘never-going-to-happen’ scenario.

We Own the Cabs

The other interesting angle that we picked up while speaking to the drivers is that Ola and Uber have created a division among its staff. Those who lease the cars from them are prioritised over drivers who own the cars, bought by them with their hard-earned money.

Ola and Uber make sure their cars get regular duties on the road. And once that is covered, only then do they allow us to get passengers.
Sanjay, Ola driver

This has angered the drivers as not only have the targets become unattainable, they have been sidelined by both the companies – something which wasn’t the case initially.

Not So Short of Cabs

Surge prices on Ola and Uber have been the subject of debate between Ola and its customers. Ola and Uber say that shortage of cabs force them to surge the prices, but drivers have a story of their own.

Sanjay, Inderjeet and Bhuwan believe that the number of cabs on the roads in Delhi-NCR outstrip the demand. So, why the surge?

Surge primarily kicks in during the peak hours, and it has nothing to do with shortage of cabs. They calculate the route with heavy traffic and add the waiting time to the approximate fare. 
Sanjay, Ola driver

The drivers have put forward their demands and Ola and Uber have to respond to them, else face the prospect of a larger, nationwide protest in the coming days. The High Court is expected to share its order on 28 February and Bhuwan and other drivers will definitely be keeping an eye on how things unfold.