Congress’ Punjab model of employment: Uber bike taxis to hit the road next week
Very soon, Punjab's towns and cities will be dotted with Uber bike taxis, or rather, uberMOTO bikes.
This will be the result of a new offering being made by the Captain Amarinder Singh-led Congress government in the state - its attempt to fulfill the promise of creating more jobs for the youth to wean them away from the menace of drugs.
Terms of employment
The first set of 100 Uber bike taxis are to be flagged off in the coming week. Uber’s South Asia Public Policy Director Shweta Rajpal Kohli called the state’s Chief Minister on 17 July to finalise the launch of the scheme that aims to create another 10,000 livelihood opportunities in Punjab over the next year.
After the meeting, Kohli said that the aim is to 45,000 jobs under this scheme over the next five years.
Amarinder had given the go-ahead to the launch of bike taxis in May as part of his government’s 'Apni Gaddi, Apna Rozgar’ programme which was promised by the Congress in its poll manifesto.
Kohli said that Uber has been present in the state for the last three years and has already created 10,000 jobs. She said that its new bike-sharing product – uberMOTO – is in line with the company’s commitment to provide affordable mobility options for riders and low entry barrier micro entrepreneurship opportunities for drivers.
A government spokesperson said that apart from job creation, the initiative will encourage youth to engage in entrepreneurial business while facilitating last-mile connectivity for commuters in areas not accessible by regular four-wheeler taxis.
The new transportation policy
The introduction of bike taxis will be a part of the much-awaited new transport policy of the government, which is in the process of being finalised.
Under the policy, existing and new motorcycle owners will be able to get commercial permits and licences to run two-wheelers as pillion taxis. The spokesperson said, “Requiring minimal investment, the scheme is expected to create a major avenue for the unemployed youth to start their own business.”
The scheme is expected to succeed because there is a dire need to improve local transport services in towns and cities.
The scheme is already running successfully in some other states including Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka, West Bengal and Haryana. The introduction of bike taxis will also help reduce vehicular traffic pressure on the roads besides controlling pollution.
The 'Apni Gaddi Apna Rozgar’ scheme, as proposed in the Congress poll manifesto, envisages one lakh taxis, light commercial vehicles and other vehicles to be provided to unemployed youth every year at subsidised rates, without collateral and with the government standing guarantee. The government proposes to tie up with major taxi operators such as Ola and Uber to ensure the success of the scheme under which the youth will be expected to repay their loan in five years.
The other schemes that the government is working on include 'Yaari Enterprises' and 'Harra Tractor'.
Under the Harra Tractor scheme, at least 25,000 tractors and other agricultural implements will be given to unemployed youth at subsidised rates to enable them to start their own agriculture services ventures. This will also entail a guarantee by the state government that loans must be repaid within five years in installments.
Yaari Enterprises is aimed at promoting small enterprises started by two or more entrepreneurs, through a subsidy of 30% up to a maximum investment of Rs. 5 lakh. The scheme envisages setting up of one lakh such enterprises every year from 2017 to 2022.
Amarinder has also directed the transport department to incorporate the operation of electric taxis in the new transport policy.
The critics chime in
Opposition party Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has not held back in showing its disapproval of the CM’s method of creating employment. Just after the presentation of the state budget last month, SAD president Sukhbir Badal had pointed at there being no provision for the 'Ghar Ghar Rozgar' scheme.
“No provision has been made for providing the means to give 25 lakh jobs to youth. Finance minister Manpreet Badal seems to be preparing to make all these youth taxi drivers for Ola and Uber taxi companies. If so has any margin money been kept in the budget to purchase taxis for the youth?” he said.
But the criticism, observers say, appears to be coming just for the sake of criticism. The same party, in its poll manifesto, had made a similar promise to the youth. Sukhbir had stated on 24 January that the SAD-BJP alliance, if voted to power, would facilitate 50,000 youth to acquire taxis without down payment and soft loans.
It now remains to be seen how the government makes the bike taxi model operational in the state with proper safeguards. Because if Amarinder succeeds in generating jobs for the youth at a time when manufacturing is down and unemployment is on the rise in various other sectors across the country, Punjab could emerge a trendsetter with its new model.