Search for livelihood brought 36-year-old Abhijeet Jadhav to Pune from Satara in August 2013. A friend suggested to him to become a driver under a travel agent at Sinhagad Road. Taking people around in the city initially earned him Rs 3,500 to Rs 6,000 per month depending on the number of rides he was booked for.
Six months later he was assigned to drop a passenger from Pune to Nashik, his first long distance trip, which fetched him a handsome Rs 4,500. Sensing that this was the way to increase his income in a big way, he started accepting long trips, mostly inter-city.
Jadhav now earns Rs 45,000 to 55,000 per month by taking long-distance passengers only in his cab.
Earlier, he was sharing a one room set with his friends. Now he lives with his family in a 1BHK in Nanded City, one of the most popular housing societies in Pune.
Recently, Abhijeet Jadhav started his own travel agency which has two cabs for long trips like Pune-Nashik, Pune-Aurangabad, Pune-Mumbai and Pune-Shirdi.
Jadhav is part of a growing trend in Pune where running a vehicle commercially is proving to be a profitable profession. This is evident from the Regional Transport Office (RTO) data that shows a sharp increase in the number of taxi cabs registered in Pune - 28,344 this year which is 5,648 cabs more than the previous year, indicating a growth of almost 25 per cent. In 2015-16, there was a growing demand for drivers in Pune with every six out of 10 four-wheelers being driven by a hired driver.
Ola, Uber influence
After Ola, app-based aggregator, entered the market, the drivers moved towards this cab service as the company assured them a livelihood with easy pick-up facility and steady earnings. The company has also provided vehicles to these drivers on easy monthly installment (EMI).
In the same year, Uber was launched in India and a fierce competition between the two services ensued as they started hiring drivers on large scale. This proved to be a game-changer as hundreds of drivers could now dream of a better livelihood in Pune.
With drivers now becoming independent with easy income through these app-based cab companies, citizens with personal vehicles are now finding it difficult to hire a full-time driver.
Instead of being someone’s personal driver, skilled drivers are choosing to either drive their own cabs or work for Multi National Companies (MNCs), specially IT companies in Pune as they pay quite well. These companies also give weekends off, which is a big incentive.
Pune’s burgeoning market is also evident from the fact that many cabs operating in the city are actually registered in different RTOs like Beed, Latur, Osmanabad and Parbhani but are driving here instead of their original place because of the difference in income.
Studying drivers’ social behaviour changes
Shruti Tambe, Head of Sociology at Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) recently conducted a survey on cab drivers to observe and understand their social behaviour changes. “We observed that this field will saturate soon. These drivers work continuously for 10 to 12 hours or sometimes more. Certainly, they earn immediate money through this profession but it takes a toll on their health like they develop spondylosis or severe health problems related to shoulder and back,” Tambe said. Their social life is affected. Some common behaviourial changes observed in them are irritation, nervous breakdown and spending less time with their family, she said. Tambe recalls an interaction with a cab driver who said he purposefully used to drive his vehicle into the potholes so to cause discomfort to the passenger. “When I told him that doing this is likely to affect his own vertebra more than that of the passenger since they would get off after a few minutes, he replied that he is doesn’t mind that, but wants the passenger to know the kind of pain a driver has to go through when ‘the passenger troubles us’.”