Goa taxi drivers protest against Russians, tour bus operators

Panaji, Jan 28: Over 1,000 taxi drivers Tuesday staged a sit-in at the state secretariat to protest their business being poached by hotels engaging tourist buses and travel agencies conducting sightseeing tours for foreign tourists.

The dharna (sit-in) comes after a major scuffle between taxi drivers and a person who was at the wheel of a coach carrying Russian holidayers in the coastal tourism hotspot of Calangute Monday.

The driver, a native of Karnataka, was injured while the Russian tourists were locked inside the bus for nearly half an hour, according to the police.

North Goa Tourist Taxi Owners’ Association president Vasudev Arlekar claimed tourist bus operators were taking away their prospective clients, and demanded a meeting with Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar.

“Russian travel representatives and the tour bus operators are colluding to deprive us of clients. If tourism does not benefit sons of the soil, what is the use,” Arlekar said, threatening a strike if the government did not crack down on the nexus between Russian travel representatives and tour bus operators.

Generally known for charging exorbitant travel rates and disregard for government-installed fare meters, a 7,000-strong tourist taxi fleet plies in Goa, mostly across its tourist-cramped coastal areas.

These cater annually to over three million tourists, nearly a lakh of whom are Russians.

IANS