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Karnataka’s uniform fare policy—Do attempts at parity consider the impact on workers?

Posted by Chiara Furtado and Nishkala Sekhar at Jul 08, 2024 03:53 AM |
Chiara Furtado and Nishkala Sekhar write in The News Minute about the Karnataka transport department’s February 2024 fare policy aiming for parity between aggregator (app-based) and other taxis. While policy interventions towards parity is a welcome step, the article highlights how inequalities and systemic barriers to parity remain for workers.

Calling for a worker justice lens to policy imaginations of parity

The Karnataka transport department’s February 2024 policy on uniform fares for aggregator (app-based) taxis and all other taxis is an encouraging step towards addressing disparities created by market-dominant platforms such as Ola Cabs and Uber. In a first, the policy attempts to bring parity between the app-based and offline taxi sectors by setting the same base and per kilometre fares for both categories. It also looks at a novel aspect of regulating app-based platforms through the prohibition of surge pricing.

This article views the policy against workers’ experiences with platforms’ management and income distribution practices. Policies such as these may well be one of many attempts to draw parity between aggregator platforms and other offline taxi firms. Yet, we find that workers have barely featured in these conversations of transport policy, whether on parity or otherwise.

The fare policy has been welcomed by some workers’ organisations as fulfilling a key demand for uniformity. However, it still remains silent on actual systemic issues and impacts for workers on platforms. This is a pressing issue in light of how workers face the worst impacts of platform practices that extract value and create disparities. CIS’ surveys showed that workers worked over 84 hours a week whilst only earning a median of Rs 5,000. For over half of them, these earnings were not sufficient to cover even basic household expenses. Further reflecting their vulnerability, 28% of workers had access to workplace accident insurance, and an even lower 6% had access to health insurance, while 57% depended on the government for benefits like food rations.

Operational and algorithmic accountability within a policy agenda on labour and data rights are inextricably linked to curbing disparities driven by dominant aggregator platforms. There is a need therefore to ensure that uniform fare policies are not limited only to customers, but also consider potential impacts on workers.


Authors: Chiara Furtado and Nishkala Sekhar

Research data: Centre for Internet and Society

Reviewers: Aayush Rathi and Chetna V. M.

Editors: The News Minute

Images: The News Minute

Publisher: The News Minute

Click to read the full essay

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Chiara Furtado and Nishkala Sekhar