Even app-cab unions agree the drivers’ decision not to switch on AC has the potential to turn into bitter brawls.(Representative image)
KOLKATA: A cab driver’s refusal to switch on the AC ended in fisticuffs with an infuriated passenger allegedly raining blows on him. Police said the passenger claimed the driver had retaliated. The issue of AC refusal in cabs has been brewing for several days now, with passengers getting increasingly agitated as the mercury soars.
According to cops, a passenger from Chatterjee Colony in New Alipore booked an app cab to the airport for Rs 580 at 8pm on Wednesday.
“He asked the driver to switch on the AC, but the driver refused saying it was a decision by his union not to switch on the AC till the commission issue was sorted as diesel prices are high. This led to a major confrontation and the two persons came to blows. While the passenger decided not to pursue a case as he was getting late for the flight, the driver lodged a hurt case with us. However, when we began enquiries and wrote to the app-cab aggregator about their stand on the issue, the driver approached his CITU union. The union approached us and said they want to withdraw the case,” said an officer.
Even app-cab unions agree the drivers’ decision not to switch on AC has the potential to turn into bitter brawls.
Indranil Banerjee, general secretary of West Bengal Online Cab Operators Guild, said app-cab companies are not ready to hear them out and solve the issue. They added that the transport department needs to step in. “Individual drivers have said that with Rs 28 fixed as the maximum fare for a km, they want a share of Rs 24-Rs 25 per kilometre to switch on the AC. We never support switching off ACs, but both sides must sit together and solve the issues in this regard. The government must realize there are law-and-order issues involved here,” said Banerjee, putting the onus on the government and aggregator, but not the driver.
But passengers are not impressed. Saikat Ghosh, a pharma executive from Deshapriya Park, said the constant refusal to switch on ACs is as much of an issue as the cancellations. “Neither cabbies nor aggregators have an answer to why they are charging extra. This is an unethical practice going on for days with no minimum attempt by the parties concerned to resolve them,” said Ghosh. Sylvia Gupta, MA student of psychology, said, “I am paying through the nose. It is no charity. Action must start now.”
While Ola did not respond (it communicated to a passenger that it does not charge for AC use), Uber said they have a built-in mechanism where passengers can lodge complaints. “Uber expects drivers on its platform to keep the car AC switched on during a ride. In case of the driver’s refusal, riders have the option to reach Uber via in-app chat and post-trip feedback,” their spokesperson said.
Passengers said after complaining, they did get back some money, but only in a few cases.