The Kerala government is set to offer a ‘desi’ alternative to popular corporate online taxis by launching its own e-taxi service next month, said to be the first such initiative by a state government in the country.
Named ‘Kerala Savari’, the online taxi hire service is being rolled out by the state Department of Labor linking existing automatic taxi networks in the state with the aim of ensuring safe and dispute-free travel for the public at affordable statewide rates.
Addressing a press conference in Thiruvananthapuram, Education, Labor and Skills Development Minister V. Sivankutty said the one-stop service was also seen as a boost to the labor sector of car taxis, which faces several challenges these days. The new service would be launched in a ceremony to be held at Kanakakkunnu Palace in Thiruvananthapuram on the start day of the Malayalam auspicious month of Chingam, which falls on August 17.
“This is the first time a state government has launched an online taxi service in the country. It is perhaps the first such system in the government sector in the world itself… Completely safe and conflict-free travel is the promise made by Kerala Savari,” Sivankutty said.
Explaining that the government is making a foray into the e-taxi sector, which is dominated by multinational companies, considering the welfare of the workers, he said it was learned that there was a difference of 20-30% between the rate charged by auto transport workers and the rate charged to passengers in all existing online taxi services.
As people prefer to use online taxi services more these days, many conventional taxi ranks have disappeared and a large number of motor transport workers have been left jobless, he said.
“It is in this circumstance that the Department of Labor decided to launch an online taxi service in the government sector, realizing that it is necessary to change the sector of motor transport workers according to the needs of the moment”, said the minister.
The Kerala Motor Transport Workers’ Welfare Fund Board is the implementing agency, which would act with the support of departments such as legal metrology, transport, IT and police, he said.
‘Kerala Savari’ would only charge 8% service charge on top of the rate set by the government which was 20-30% in other online taxis, he said.
The amount, collected as a service fee, would be used for the implementation of the project and promotional incentives for passengers and drivers, the minister added.
Stating that the Kerala Savari app would be safe for women and children, he said it was crafted with utmost care in safety standards. A police certificate has been made mandatory for drivers joining the program, Sivankutty said, adding that the app also has a “panic button” that can be used in the event of an accident or other similar danger. .
“It was decided to implement the program across the state. At present, up to 500 auto taxi drivers within the boundary of Thiruvananthapuram Corporation are members of the scheme. Officials from various departments provided them with training in various fields,” the minister said.