This is reference to an article appearing in your esteemed newspaper on the 19th September 2006, justifying the need for ‘action’ to be taken against Taxis. I do concur with the list of various misdemeanours by taxi drivers, as listed in the article. However, it doesn’t portray the complete picture of the existing ‘taxi situation’ and the solutions offered by the various concerned individuals who tend to be a tad impractical. For starters, most of the developed countries don’t have a taxi-sharing system. So, once a passenger gets into a taxi, the driver doesn’t have to bother searching for other passengers because his existing passenger will pay for the entire trip and this amount will more than cover his related cost thereof. Thus, there is no blemish on the image of the nation on account of the taxi industry. In this regard, our unfortunate taxi drivers don’t have a choice. If they decide to follow the example of such nations, we’ll no doubt have a top-quality taxi industry at par with international standards but most of our residents will have to walk more often because, I hope you haven’t forgotten our poverty situation? Despite the soaring costs of petroleum, nobody wants to pay more towards transportation charges. Therefore, we have no choice but to share taxis with other passengers as this helps save on costs. Hence, it is but obvious that our taxi driver has to keep looking for passengers in order to ensure that we don’t have to pay too much towards our taxi fare. Now, the popular theory is that every time a taxi driver spots a passenger waving at him, he tends to stop the taxi regardless of the traffic situation and or location. One doesn’t deny this careless insensitivity, but let’s look at the same picture from a reverse angle. What were the intentions of the prospective customer when he decided to wave at a taxi, right in the middle f traffic? Did he expect the taxi driver to wave back at him and then go, and stop the taxi a few hundred metres away in a safe location? I don’t think so. The prospective customer wants the taxi to stop as near to him as possible so that he has to make the minimum effort to reach the taxi. The same applies to customers getting off a taxi. So isn’t the prospective customer, i.e. us, as guilty as the taxi driver for such “careless insensitivity’? I mean, how many of us are ready to walk some distance to what may be construed as a relatively safe area and then hail or get off a taxi? There are, of course, other misdemeanours like driving under the influence of alcohol, over-speeding, contravening one or more traffic rules, etc. which are regularly perpetrated by taxi drivers. Since when have these acts become exclusive to the taxi industry? A perusal of the traffic records will clearly show that such acts are committed by drivers of all vehicles, without any discrimination. Just like any other industry, the taxi industry also has its quota of unscrupulous elements who successfully impact a bad name on the entire industry. One can only conjecture as to why so much hullabaloo is not made about such elements in other industries as compared to the taxi industry. Is it about class, or do we just love to hate our taxi drivers? So, let’s look at the entire situation from a practical point of view. Taxis have become an indispensable part of most of our lives. We need them to go to work, to visit relatives, etc. Without taxis, life would become quite tough, especially bearing in mind the climatic and geographical environment of our country. Secondly, because of our financial situation, we can’t afford to pay exorbitant fares in this regard. The taxi driver, as a human being, is not doing his job for charitable purposes. He plans to earn some money in order to feed himself and his family apart from paying off any lease or rental charges for his taxi. Given the exorbitant cost of petrol, vehicle maintenance, etc. along with the overall cost of living , it is obvious that the taxi driver will try and take as many passengers as possible. Therefore, when one of us hails or decides to get off a taxi in the middle of a congested road, bearing in mind the economic implications, the taxi driver has no option but to stop, following which he and the industry as a whole get crucified on a regular basis. To arrive at some solution to this “taxi problem,’ we, as customers, have to accept the basic fact that we’re as guilty as the taxi drivers in the creation of this problem. The standard solution offered by most individuals is to press for stronger legislation. However, any legislation, in this regard, should bear in mind the basic fact that we’re dealing with human beings here. The taxi industry provides employment and livelihood for a large number of people and/or families. Any act implemented in haste could be detrimental to such people and our economy as a whole. Secondly, any such legislation has to be just and equitable. Perhaps a national level forum of taxi union representatives, government officials and consumer activists could come up with some solutions to this problem like, for example, maybe the government can set up numerous taxi stops, just like bus stops, all over the city. Taxi drivers and passengers could be educated on how to use these stops, or get on or off taxis. Any contravention of this rule should result in the imposition of fines and/or penalties, not only on the taxi driver but also on the passenger concerned. It’s just a suggestion, but it might help inculcate some overall traffic discipline. Even if the aforementioned suggestion doesn’t work, ideas like that can help develop some kind of starting point for a solution to a highly complex problem. Nevertheless, one mustn’t forget the basic fact that no matter what solution is arrived at, it shouldn’t ignore the basic fact that, in this regard, we are dealing with an extremely valuable commodity, viz. Human Beings. Ashok Iyer Ondangwa.
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