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Odisha Bike Taxi Drivers On-Strike to Protect Their Livelihood

Bhubaneswar: On 27th February 2024, the Bike Taxi Drivers Association staged a protest at Master Canteen, Odisha, urging the Government to allow the peaceful operation of bike taxis within the city. The protest stems from the Government’s restriction, outlined in the Odisha Aggregator Guidelines of 2023, which prohibits the aggregation of white board two-wheelers for passenger mobility. This decision stands in contradiction to the policy implemented by the Central Government and several other states such as Goa, Telangana, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh, which permit such aggregation. Recently, the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) issued an advisory to the state Governments on January 22, 2024. The advisory states that motorcycles fall within the definition of contract carriages as per Section 2(7) of the Motor Vehicles (MV) Act, 1988. Therefore, Odisha Aggregator Guidelines of 2023 stands directly in contravention to the Central Government’s directives.

While Odisha looks at two-wheelers for passenger mobility differently, the Government of West Bengal has recognized the socioeconomic opportunity of introducing a policy that allows the use of white board two-wheelers for commercial activities, subject to a daily permit fee. This proactive step not only addresses the concerns of bike taxi drivers but also presents an opportunity for revenue generation for the state.

The association highlighted the plight of 30,000 riders who can lose their jobs as bike taxi riders, which is their sole source of earning a livelihood, affecting their families’ financial stability. Most drivers associated with aggregators are part-timers who switch between formal and informal employment opportunities. Mandating the conversion of their two-wheelers into yellow number boards, without provisions for reverting to white number boards, is viewed as regressive. Such a requirement could impede the growth of the gig economy in the state, hindering the overall economic progress.

In light of these challenges, it is imperative for the Government of Odisha to reassess its policies and collaborate with stakeholders to find viable solutions that ensure the livelihood security of bike taxi drivers while fostering the growth of the gig economy. Failure to address these concerns promptly could have far-reaching implications for both the drivers and the state’s economic landscape.

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