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Tourists hassled as Goa's taxi strike stretches into 5th day
Panaji, April 13 - Thirty-year-old Manish Thakur spent the last five days lounging on the sands at the popular Candolim beach.
His typical Goa holiday itinerary also included gorging on sea food, beer and visiting nearby pubs before returning to his four-star resort in Candolim beach village.
There's little else he could do, with taxis on strike in Goa for the last five days.
"If I could drive, I would have hired a self-driven car or bike, but without a licence I was virtually marooned. My life revolved around my hotel, the beach and nearby clubs. I wanted to explore Goa a bit too," Thakur, a banker said.
Tourists in Goa have faced the brunt of the several days-long taxi strike in the state, whose tourism-driven economy had been slowly reviving, before the new spate of Covid-19 infections.
Private taxi owners and taxi drivers in Goa have been demanding the immediate scrapping of an app-based taxi service 'GoaMiles', the only such service endorsed by the Goa government, but operated by a private player.
"GoaMiles is a scam which has been foisted on us taxi drivers in Goa. The government has been trying to slip in corporate players in the taxi strike at our cost. We have brought this to the notice of the Chief Minister in the recent past, but there has been no response. We have decided now to not call off our strike until GoaMiles is scrapped," Bappa Korgaonkar, a spokesperson for Goa's taxi unions said.
A large section of Goa's 30,000 odd tourist taxis and the drivers who man them, have often been accused of overcharging, intimidating and operating in an unregulated environment.
Following a slew of complaints, the state Tourism Ministry in 2018 started an outsourced private app-based taxi service GoaMiles, which has been opposed by local taxi unions.
While GoaMiles operates a counter at the Dabolim international airport in Goa, its service so far has been patchy and the taxi services' reach in several parts of Goa virtually non-existent. Other forms of public transport in Goa, including bus, autos and train services are extremely limited, especially when it comes to the quantum of tourist footfalls which the state receives annually.
While the footfall has dropped considerably due to the pandemic, at its peak, the Tourism Ministry has claimed that nearly eight million tourists visited the state in 2019.
Ola taxi services were introduced in Goa in 2014, but were soon stopped by the state transport department following protests by local taxi operators.
The current taxi strike has created a hassle for tourists especially when they land in Goa or need a ride to the Goa airport.
Transport Minister Mauvin Godinho has maintained that the government was in no mood to listen to the "unreasonable demands" of the taxi drivers and said the government will not join the taxi unions in a discussion, if the lobby lays down pre-conditions for talks.
Godinho claims that the taxi strike and the demand to scrap GoaMiles was in fact a smokescreen to leverage pressure on the Goa government to not implement a High Court ruling which calls for fare meters to be implemented in the state's taxis.
On Tuesday, taxi unions whose members have been on strike for five days and protesting in Panaji in large numbers, have now threatened to bring their family members to add to their numbers.
"If a decision on scrapping GoaMiles is not taken today, then we will get all our family members to join the strike. It is up to the government to take a call," Korgaonkar said.
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