Centre for Responsible Tourism
Federation of Tourist Taxi Association of South Goa
The Federation of Tourist Taxi Association of South Goa (FTTAG) brings together taxi unions based in South Goa. Its aim is to work for the welfare of its members and bring about qualitative changes in the working conditions of tourist taxi operators. It is supported by the Centre for Responsible Tourism.
FTTAG members were shocked and aggrieved by a report in the newly founded weekly THE GOAN titled “Taxi gangs of Xaxti-Pur”. The report is erroneous and full of deliberate falsehoods targeted to malign the tourist taxi drivers. The report refers to Goa’s taxi gangland and characterizes tourist taxi drivers as ‘the mafia’. The lies and exaggerations contained in the report neglect one important truth- that taxi drivers in Goa are a group of hard working self employed men drawn from the working classes of Goan society. The portrayal of tourist taxi drivers as gangsters is not too dissimilar to anti-mining activists being called ‘naxalites. Anyone from the working class who tries to make an honest living and asserts their rights is branded in a negative light.
The report feeds the already high level of prejudice on the part of a public most of who have never encountered the tourist taxi community of people. Being short on facts and tall on design and form, the article highlights a series of examples of how taxi drivers harass and intimidate innocent travellers in crude ways. The depiction is both crude and unwarranted. FTTAG would like to refute these sham accusations and set the record straight.
- In the case of the parking lot supposedly run by the taxi union in Palolem, it must be noted that the space belongs to the Cancona Municipal Council and not by any taxi union. The Neshwin Almeida, the reporter, himself has admitted to the fact that he was short on evidence when he was confronted by the facts.
- Mr. Almeida had also stated that the last bus from Cavelossim leaves at 6.30 pm and that this leaves travellers at the mercy of the taxis. FTTAG asks: Whose fault is it that the public bus services close down so early? And where does the question of harassment arise when taxi unions operate strictly on the basis of the government stipulated rates and as per the official gazette?
- The accusation is also made that the Benaulim and Colva taxi unions are manipulated by Micky Pacheco and the Alemaos. Nothing can be further from the truth. FTTAG has always maintained its independence from political affiliation. Individual members may be part of political groups but that does not interfere with the working of any taxi association in South Goa.
- There are some clumsy inferences made about taxi services made by a visitor from Mumbai. What point does Mr. Almeida wish to make?
- Mr. Almeida refers to gang wars among the taxi groups in South Goa. This is obviously a figment of his imagination because there are clear understandings and agreements about the ground rules under which the taxi stands operate. FTTAG has never heard of turf wars. Taxi drivers do not get into quarrels with their customers knowing fully well that if they do so, their legal contracts with the hotels from which they operate can be annulled. Contrary to what has been claimed in the report of Mr. Almeida, taxi unions have a Code of Ethics. These are strictly adhered to. Violators of the code can be even dismissed from the taxi union.
- Mr. Almeida has used many fictitious names to exaggerate his report. The taxi drivers named in the report have denied any knowledge of Mr. Almeida and do not recall giving out any information or being interviewed. This is a serious violation of professional ethics by a journalist. For example he refers to Roque who he claims is President of the Benaulim taxi drivers and owners Union. This is untrue.
- Mr. Almeida has also suggested that the taxi unions are not in favour of GPS and metres being installed in their taxis. Nothing can be further from the truth. Regardless of whether this is a workable formula or not, FTTAG is the only union that has accepted this proposal.
- The Taxi Union in Colva has been accused of stoning buses in their area. Does Mr. Almeida know that the turf war is among the bus operators themselves?
- In the case of the airport bus services, it has been stated that the Kadamba bus service has been stopped because of the taxi drivers. Mr. Almeida would do well to research this better for he will find that the Kadamba corporation self destructed on this route. No taxi unions and drivers were involved.
- Mr. Almeida claims that taxi drivers in given spots do not allow other tourist taxi drivers to park their taxis in their areas. This is true but there is a reason for this. According to the licensing policy for tourist taxis, taxis must either be parked in the home of the taxi driver or in a stand in front of the hotel with which the taxi driver has a legal contract. Therefore, a taxi driver parked on the roadside and soliciting customers within the hotel premises is violating the policy.
- The reference to black/yellow taxis and their relationship with tourist taxis in Margao is redundant. There is absolutely no conflict between the two sectors. It is also incorrect to claim that the airport is the space where customers are harassed and fleeced.
- In a patronising argument, Mr. Almeida pretends to rationalise why taxi unions charge prohibitive rates. His arguments betray his ignorance. First of all, he seems to be unaware of the officially gazetted rates which the drivers strictly follow. Also, tourist taxi drivers in the South make bigger money during off season when domestic tourists visit Goa. Overseas visitors use taxis in somewhat lesser ways, because they are first siphoned by the tour operators. The accusation that taxi drivers charge excessive prices is incorrect. The excessive prices are charged by the tour operators who own a fleet of tourist taxis as well and charge unreasonable rates in foreign currency.
We wish to affirm that tourist taxi drivers consider themselves as responsible citizens. As an important stakeholder in the tourism sector, we want to see tourism prosper. Towards that we will strive. In the meanwhile, we hope that the media and opinion makers in society will try to understand us and learn more about the difficult circumstances under which we work. The image of the tourist taxi driver is shown in a negative light and we urge the media to dialogue with us and rectify the facts.