Bullying as governance

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s self-righteousness is revolting. Against empirical evidence and expert opinion, he reintroduced the quixotic odd-even scheme this month, leading to inconvenience to commuters and surge pricing by cab aggregators. When the people complained of high charges, he bullied the aggregators to withdraw surge pricing. Which is not surprising: the guy who equates slander with political debate will equate theatrics with innovation and intimidation with governance.

Gagan Bhatia, general manager, Uber North, did talk about bullying in his comment on surge pricing: “Given the threat of the Delhi government to cancel permits and impound vehicles of our driver partners, we are temporarily suspending surge pricing in Delhi with immediate effect. We hope to work with the government to keep Delhi moving, especially during this time when the citizens need us the most” (emphasis added).

Ola business head (north) Deep Singh also promised cooperation: “To make the government’s odd-even initiative a success, Ola has temporarily pulled out peak pricing in Delhi NCR.”

But Kejriwal’s threats remain unabated; his government now wants to ban surge pricing permanently. Earlier, he had termed surge pricing as “daylight robbery.”

Typically, what Kejriwal and his cronies won’t answer a few questions. First, how can a normal business practice, regularly followed by airlines and hotels, be disallowed in a sector? In fact, state-run Indian Railways also charges more when the demand rises, though it uses the term ‘dynamic pricing’ for overcharging. Does the Chief Minister of Delhi want to change the rules of all businesses all over the country, and even elsewhere?

Second, it is a well-known fact that price and tariff caps, imposed by government, often lead to undesirable practices like shortages, corruption, and hassles. Why does Kejriwal want to ignore these facts?

Third, while he and his ministers remain focused on cab aggregators, what are they doing to rein in the drivers of auto-rickshaws who continue to torment and fleece commuters? Of course, they are a big support base for the Aam Aadmi Party, but does that give them the licence to do whatever they want to?

It is time Kejriwal accepted that the odd-even scheme is idiotic and dumped it. He can continue to blame the cab aggregators, the Bharatiya Janata Party, the media, etc., for the problems arising out of the implementation of the scheme, but the troubles for Delhiites will keep mounting. It would be better if he invested his times, energy, and efforts in areas that would be beneficial for the people and, consequently, to his own party. He was not elected to execute the benighted agenda of psychotic activists.