Thiruvananthapuram: ‘Kerala Savari’, an online taxi service owned by the state government, was launched on August 17 in Thiruvananthapuram. The program was designed and implemented by the Motor Vehicle Welfare Board under the aegis of the state Department of Labor.
Kerala Savari will have a fleet of about 500 registered cars and taxis, which will be charged 8% as a service charge against the 20-30% levied by private operators. Passengers were assured that they did not have to worry about exorbitant tariffs at peak times since the government decided to have fixed tariffs unlike the ‘peak hour’ tariffs followed by private operators.
The Left Democratic Government (LDF) decided to launch its own online taxi service app after numerous complaints about the difficulties faced by passengers and drivers due to policies followed by corporate service providers.
The Kerala Savari app has incorporated safety and security measures to avoid and prevent any untoward incidents for the passengers.
The program is expected to be extended to the municipalities of Kollam, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Kozhikode and Kannur within the next month.
AN ALTERNATIVE MODEL
The launch of ‘Kerala Savari’ has been hailed by many as one of the landmark projects of the LDF regime, as the Kerala government has set an example by entering a sector dominated solely by giant corporations.
V Sivankutty, Minister of State for Labour, said at the launch of the app: “Labour and traditional workers are the most affected by the neoliberal policies being implemented. Although people are using online services, the exploitation of workers and passengers has continued. The government has decided to enter this business-dominated sector to ensure affordable and safe travel for citizens.
The rates will be fixed, unlike private players who charge exorbitantly during “dynamic” pricing at peak times, the minister said.
“There will be no fluctuation in fees in the Kerala Savari app. Private companies raise fares up to one and a half times during peak hours. Neither passengers nor workers benefit,” reads- on in a statement from the government of Kerala.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, after reporting the service, tweeted: “Reported Kerala Savari, the 1st online taxi service under the public initiative. Government-approved fares and compensation will ensure safe travel and fair wages. The public will not be cheated and the drivers will not be exploited. Kerala Model shines once again, this time through our labor department.
“WORKERS AND PASSENGERS WILL BENEFIT”
Service charges for using the service have been kept as low as 8%, while private operators charge between 20 and 30%. Service fees collected will be used to facilitate the program and provide promotional incentives to workers and passengers.
“The Motor Vehicle Welfare Board has developed different schemes for the benefit of workers. Considering the exploitation and suffering experienced in the private sector, we expect more workers to join the service launched by the government of Kerala,” Sivankutty said.
Vehicles joining the fleet will be fitted with GPS devices at a progressively subsidized rate. A 24-hour call center will operate from the district motor vehicle protection department, according to the statement.
KK Divakaran, chairman of the board of the Kerala Motor Transport Workers Welfare Fund, speaking at the event, praised the government’s efforts to ensure the welfare of the workers. “It’s a model worth following. All state governments must implement this program, which will help both workers and passengers,” he said.
The government has decided to extend the system to other municipal corporations within a month.
EFFORTS TO ENSURE SAFETY
Given the history of threats to passengers, especially women in online taxis, the government has built security measures into the app itself. A panic button has been included which can be used to trigger the alarm in case of danger or feeling of danger.
“Both the passenger and the worker can trigger an alarm during accidents or other untoward incidents, which is completely private. Neither the worker nor the passenger will know that an alarm is triggered,” Sivankutty said.
The government statement says that Kerala Savari aims to provide safe and reliable service to women, children and the elderly. A criminal record certificate is mandatory for workers joining the service, while appropriate training is also provided by the motor vehicle service.