BY AUGUSTO RODRIGUES
Anthony in South Goa owns and drives a taxi, and this is his tale.
“We were ordered to install metres in our taxis to comply with the High Court orders, and we complied. We were against the idea because our customers were under the impression that we could take them on a spin with the metres and preferred the rate we quoted.”
Taxis are now fitted with metres, and Anthony’s tale takes another twist.
“Now that we have fitted metres, the government without consulting us decides to create an app for us and to be operated by us. Unfortunately, they forgot that it should have been thought of by us.”
It is 11 am in the morning, and Anthony is alone in his stand.
“Once I get a customer from the hotel, I will call up my colleague next in the queue before I leave with my guests. The process gets repeated right through the day as there are more taxis and fewer guests.”
Like Anthony, there are just a few taxi drivers at most stands next to starred hotels in South Goa. While a few clients look at them as cheats, many taxi drivers in Goa have a hazy view of the future.
“The days of Innovas are over. Taxi drivers are thinking twice before even investing in Ertigas because the market is down. We are not sure if it is because of the after-effects of the pandemic, but business has been bad right through the season,” laments Olencio, as he stands chatting with the security guard of the hotel.
Taxi drivers have been in the news for good and bad reasons, and it is those who have been in the business first that are apprehensive about the future.
“We used to make a minimum of two trips per day before the pandemic because the foreign tourist would like to travel around, wanting to see different parts of Goa. There have been few foreigners this year, and it is telling on our business,” confesses Remigio as he admits he will be going to his fields once the monsoons start.
“Despite a metred trip costing Rs 3,500 to the Mopa international airport, we sometimes quote less because there are people who charge less and customers prefer to go with them. Everyone is out to make a buck and not just we taxis,” complains Remigio as he points to a board selling a trip to Mopa for Rs 2,800.
“It is too early to talk about the impact of the new airport on taxi drivers from South Goa. For sure, the cost should not be a factor, but we are hearing the news that people landing in Mopa prefer to stay in hotels in North Goa. This is just an early assumption,” opines Millie, who kills time with his smartphone.
“I have been in the business for years and have noticed that unlike in the past, we are now not taken into consideration. We are told what should be done instead of being asked about our needs,” says Millie whilst trying to explain the shift in needle from opinion to order.
“We normally sit in that shed waiting for business, and as you can see, there is nothing. Yet, we are not complaining because we are here to earn just like everybody else. But sometimes we do feel threatened by the thought that business is being designed for taxi drivers outside Goa,” observes Reuben.
It is nearing 6 pm, and as the sun is beginning to set, Joaquim decides to call it a day without business. He still carries a smile on his face. “You can never know, I may get a call while at home from someone asking to be dropped or picked up, and I will go because this is not a 9 to 5 job,” he says as he starts his taxi.
As he drives away happily, the standard picture of taxi drivers of Goa crosses one’s mind and one wonders why the image of taxi drivers is sullied. Could it be a case of a few rotten apples…?