Transportation cost, including taxi fares, have more than doubled in Shillong post the lockdown period, leaving common people who rely on taxis financially stressed. The steep rise in fares was noticed immediately after the lockdown when the government had imposed the odd-even formula for commercial vehicles plying in the city.
While people have expressed concern over the rates, the government is quiet on the matter, not taking any steps to bring down the fares despite states cutting tax on fuels.
People who paid Rs 20 from Nongrim Hills to Police Bazar just before the lockdown, i.e., December 2019, now have to shell out Rs 50 for the same distance and route, which is a 150 per cent rise. The government was planning an upward revision of fares just before the lockdown, which, however, did not happen. But this gave an excuse to the taxis to raise their fares manyfold. Had the government done it, the fare would have possibly stayed somewhere around Rs 30 for the Nongrim-PB route.
The odd-even formula, and with seating capacity slashed to half, made the drivers charge double for each passenger, which was arguably justified given the less number of passengers per vehicle. But, as the government eased restrictions and allowed taxis to ply with full capacity, it was expected that the fares will go down to pre-lockdown times, or perhaps increased only nominally.
Nevertheless, that did not happen, and taxi drivers and unions continued to charge passengers the same, despite complaints by various sections of the people. The local taxi drivers do not even display the new fare rates as formulated by the government, which has to be produced every time a passenger demands it.
The government too is silent on the matter, and neither has it come out with any circular stating that rates have been doubled for commercial vehicles. The direction of the government to the Shillong Taxi Union is neither clear nor made public, which must be done to ensure transparency.
Therefore, the East Khasi Hills district administration must take cognisance of the matter and accordingly act for the welfare of the general public. It must ensure that fares are nominal and not so high that it compels people to seek alternative means of travelling.
The DC’s office must call on all the stakeholders, including the taxi unions and different civil society organisations and discuss with them the process that can be mutually agreed on by the public and the taxi drivers.
This will ensure financial equilibrium in the economy, which already has witnessed record inflation during the last two years of the lockdown.
John Kharshiing, Shillong