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23 February, 2020 12:27:42 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 23 February, 2020 03:34:46 PM
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Ride-sharing hits a bump as riders bypass apps

Drivers want more money from rides; steps on to stop offline rides: Pathao
SAUGATO BOSU, Dhaka
Ride-sharing hits a bump as riders bypass apps
A number of riders wait on their bikes for pillion riders while a group of students wait for their ride home at a busy intersection in the capital’s Karwan Bazar area yesterday. Independent Photo

Gone are the days when Dhaka commuters enjoyed hassle-free travel with ride-sharing services. The convenience and security provided by such services appear to have been rather short-lived. The arrival of ride-sharing services, such as Uber, Pathao, OBHAI, Pickme, Shohoj, and SAM, initially made life simpler for commuters in the capital. But drivers associated with ride-sharing apps seem to be going the way of CNG auto-rickshaw operators.

The drivers refuse to go by the apps, demand more than the stipulated fare, drive rashly, and ignore commuters' requests, creating security risks for both passengers and themselves.

The lack of discipline is also affecting the riders themselves. On August 26 last year, Milon, a rider with a ride-sharing service, was stabbed to death by a mugger who boarded the victim's bike disguised as a passenger in Malibagh. The suspected mugger then rode away on the motorcycle.

At the time, the police said it would have been easy to find the killer had the driver used the app instead of operating on contract basis.

Problems on the rise

Many allegations have been levelled against drivers connected with ride-sharing apps recently. The allegations include demanding rides on contract bypassing the use of mobile phone apps, refusal to go to the customer’s desired destination, cancellation of trips after accepting the request for a ride, reckless driving, charging extra fare, and violation of traffic rules.

In January last year, the cabinet approved the Ride-Sharing Service Guideline 2017. The guidelines specify that drivers associated with ride-sharing services are obliged to carry passengers regardless of the distance. But many drivers flout the rule without a second thought.

Visits to multiple busy intersections and other areas of the city reveal drivers often turn off their apps to find fares on individual contract.

One rider at the Mouchak–Malibagh intersection said it is easy to pocket the entire fare if they take the customer on a contract basis.

When hailing ride-hailing services, the passenger has to book the ride first and wait for the driver to call and confirm the trip. However, if the destination does not suit the drivers, they may cancel it without any consequences.

Another issue can be found in many hot zones where motorcycle operators wait for a pillion rider. If someone approaches them, they ask about the destination. The fare is discussed only if the destination suits the driver. This is

not allowed in ride-sharing apps, where the destination is selected first and then the estimated fare is displayed. Moreover, ride-hailing companies have now stopped promotional and other offers whereby vehicle operators could earn extra.

Nowadays, some drivers ask about the fare and bargain with the passenger. At times, they may use the app to check the fare, but do not go along with it.

Sajedul Bari, an employee at a private bank, recounted his experience from a few days ago. He was waiting at the Maghbazar intersection around 8pm and needed to travel to Madhya Badda. However, he could not find any rides on the ride-sharing apps. As he waited, drivers associated with some ride-sharing services surrounded him and asked about his destination.

“None of them wanted to go by the app. Because of the security risk, I had to avoid them,” Bari said.

Tahsina Ferdous Rinia, a student of Dhaka University (DU), recently met with an accident due to the reckless driving of a Pathao rider.

“The driver was driving so fast that he ignored all traffic rules during the ride. At one point, the bike collided with a rickshaw and fell. Both of us were hurt. The driver was so seriously injured that he could not continue,” she said.

Complaints like these about ride-sharing service are on the rise. But they are not being looked into properly by the authorities, which is why the problem is increasing day by day.

There are also frequent cases of bike helmets not being used, even though they are mandatory for both riders and passengers.

What riders say

Many drivers said they were helpless because the ride-sharing companies ignored their demands.

Last year, Uber drivers went on strike calling for fulfilment of their eight-point demand. Their demands included getting a proper commission and an adequate share of the money from the ride, the possibility to arrange for trips near destinations under the “Destination” option in the app, measures to ensure the security of drivers, and compensation if passengers damaged their vehicles.

They also urged the authorities not to take action against drivers without investigating the passenger complaints.

What the authorities say

However, officials of the ride-sharing service company mostly denied the allegations rather they mentioned the initiatives that they have taken to save their business. Hussain M Elius, Co-founder and CEO of Pathao, in a statement, said Pathao has taken some measures to stop offline rides and it also cares about their pillion riders as well as drivers.

He said, “During a ride if the rider wants to go offline and we if receive any sort of complaints from the customer, the Pathao team will immediately delist him from Pathao.”

“If the customers send us pictures of the number plate through Messenger or Facebook, we will make sure that the designated driver to that particular license number is immediately prohibited from any further work at Pathao,” he added.

Speaking with The Independent over telephone, Syed Fakruuddin Millath, corporate and regulatory affairs manager at OBHAI Solutions Limited, said the industry was suffering because drivers were not using the app.

“We have noticed that some drivers are inclined not to use the app. In our case, however, the numbers are very low, and we are constantly monitoring the situation,” he added.

Millath explained that one major issue was lack of Internet access on the passengers’ phones. It prompts the passengers to approach drivers directly instead of through the app. He added security is also a concern.

“We have arranged for an OTP code to be sent through the mobile phone. The driver can then access the passenger’s mobile number through the app. A code then shows up on the passenger’s phone, ensuring that he/she is covered by the app too,” he added.

“The Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) can now directly monitor the complaints submitted to our servers. If any allegation is made, it is given the utmost importance,” he said.

Millath, who is also the convener of the Ride-Sharing Operation Association of Bangladesh, said their monitoring teams work mainly in Dhaka. “They basically monitor the activities of drivers. Moreover, we no longer give warnings as we used to before. If we receive any complaints, we dismiss the rider,” he said.

A problem?

Speaking to The Independent, Mozammel Hoque Chowdhury, secretary general of Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity, said though ride-sharing services initially provided better transportation, they are becoming a major problem for the capital.

“The problems associated with ride-sharing services are increasing day by day. It is not only a concern for the ride-sharing companies, but also for the government, as the government is deprived of revenue,” he said.

BRTA Director (engineering) Lokman Hossain Mollah said it was the operators’ duty to monitor and create awareness among users. “We have already issued letters to the ride-sharing companies to ensure their drivers are aware of how to use the apps,” he added.

He urged the authorities concerned to monitor the services and ensure the security of passengers.

App-based riding services began in the capital in 2015. The ride-sharing industry in Bangladesh is worth an estimated Tk 22 billion (USD 260 million) and represents about 23 per cent of the transport sector in the country, according to a 2018 study by the Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh.+

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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