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In a First, LDF Govt Launches State-Run Online Taxi, Auto App – Kerala Savari

Neelambaran A |
The government’s own online taxi service app, with a fleet of 500 taxis and autos for now, aims to benefit passengers and workers who feel fleeced by private service providers.
Kerala Savari

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan launches Kerala Savari, a government-owned online taxi service in Thiruvananthapuram. Courtesy: @iprdkerala

Thiruvananthapuram: ‘Kerala Savari’, an online taxi service owned by the state government, was launched on August 17 in Thiruvananthapuram. The scheme was conceived and implemented by the Motor Vehicle Welfare Board under the state labour department. 

The Kerala Savari will have a fleet of around 500 autos and taxis enrolled, who will be charged 8% as a service charge against the 20-30% levied by private operators. Passengers have been assured that they need not worry about exorbitant fares during peak hours since the government has decided to have fixed fares contrary to the ‘peak time’ fares followed by private operators.

The Left Democratic Government (LDF) decided to launch its own online taxi service app after numerous complaints of difficulties faced by passengers and the drivers due to the policies followed by the corporate service providers. 

The Kerala Savari app has incorporated safety and security measures to avoid and prevent any untoward incidents for the passengers. 

The scheme is set to be expanded to Kollam, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Kozhikode and Kannur municipal corporations within the next month.

AN ALTERNATIVE MODEL

The launch of ‘Kerala Savari’ has been hailed by many as one of the milestone schemes of the LDF regime, as the Kerala government has set an example by entering a sector dominated only by corporate giants.

V Sivankutty, state minister for labour, said during the app’s launch: “Traditional works and workers are the most affected by neo-liberal policies being implemented. Though people are using online services, exploitation of workers and passengers has continued. The government decided to enter this sector dominated by the corporates to ensure affordable and safe travel to citizens.”

The fares will be fixed, unlike the private players who charge exorbitantly during ‘dynamic’ pricing during peak hours, said the minister. 

“There will be no fluctuation in the charges in the Kerala Savari app. The private companies increase the charges by up to one-and-a-half times during peak hours. Neither passengers nor workers benefit from this”, a statement from the Kerala government read. 

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, after flagging off the service, tweeted: “Flagged off Kerala Savari, the 1st online taxi service under the public initiative. Government-approved fares and remuneration will ensure safe commutes and fair wages. The public won't be fleeced and drivers won't be exploited. Kerala Model shines yet again, this time through our Labour Department.”

‘WORKERS AND PASSENGERS WILL BENEFIT’

The service charge for utilising the service has been kept as low as 8%, while private operators charge between 20-30%. The service charge collected will be used for facilitating the scheme and providing promotional incentives to workers and passengers. 

“The Motor Vehicle Welfare Board has evolved different schemes for the benefit of the workers. Considering the exploitation and sufferings experienced in the private sector, we expect more workers to join the service launched by the government of Kerala,” Sivankutty said.

The vehicles joining the fleet will be fixed with GPS devices at a subsidised rate in a phased manner. A round-the-clock call centre will be functioning from the district motor vehicle welfare department, the release said.

K K Divakaran, Chairman of the Kerala Motor Transport Workers Welfare Fund Board, while speaking at the event, lauded the efforts of the government in ensuring the welfare of workers. “This is a model worth emulating. All state governments must implement this scheme, which will help both workers and passengers,” he said.

The government has decided to expand the scheme to other municipal corporations within one month. 

EFFORTS TO ENSURE SAFETY

Considering the history of threats to passengers, particularly to women in online taxis, the government has incorporated safety measures in the app itself. A panic button has been included which can be used to raise alarm in the event of danger or sense of danger.

“The passenger and worker can raise an alarm during accidents or other untoward incidents, which is completely private. Neither the worker nor passenger will not know that an alarm is being raised,” Sivankutty said. 

The government statement said Kerala Savari aims at providing safe and reliable service for women, children and senior citizens. A police clearance certificate is mandatory for workers joining the service, while proper training is also imparted by the motor vehicle department.

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