The incident was a direct fall-out of the Bombay high court at Goa’s order on Monday declining to provide any relief to the owners of private cars who have been renting out their vehicles to tourists without the rent-a-car permit. The HC order directs the transport department to consider the applications within eight weeks and take a decision whether to issue rent-a-car permits or not, as it is the appropriate authority to do so.
In recent weeks, following demands from the North Goa tourist taxi owners association (NGTTOA), the RTO had formed a flying squad to stop tourists from driving around in private vehicles without a rent-a-car permit, and the squad had been fining the owners and seized a large number of cars.
On Wednesday, owners of private cars who have been renting them out illegally attempted to block the flying squad at the Dolphin circle and also released some cars without paying the fine, claiming the HC order had directed the transport department to issue them the rent-a-car permits within six days.
Following this, a large number of tourist taxi owners led by office bearers of the NGTTOA also gathered at the spot to insist that the flying squad seize the cars and fine the owners, leading to a tense situation. A large number of policemen from the Calangute police station led by PI Tushar Vernekar was stationed at the spot and separated the two groups on two sides of the road to prevent any untoward incident.
Arguments and counter arguments continued till evening with the NGTTOA demanding that the flying squad go strictly by the book and seize the cars, while the rent-a-cab association members urged the flying squad to restrain themselves in view of the HC order. Owners of private cars also attempted to stop taxis which were being driven by taxi owners without the mandatory uniform. “If they want us to go by the rules, then they should also go by the rules,” Nitesh Chodankar, vice-president of the North Goa rent-a-cab association said.
Meanwhile, Vinayak Nanoskar, NGTTOA secretary, said that false rumours are being spread amongst the private car owners about the HC order by the members of the rent-a-cab association, and urged them to wait for the transport department to decide on their applications. “They’re giving interviews to TV channels and media claiming that the transport department has been directed to give them rent-a-car permits, which is not correct,” he said. A few days ago, the NGTTOA had threatened to go on a strike on April 11 if the transport department issues licences to the illegal private rental cars.
On the other hand, a large number of tourists are seen driving around Calangute in illegal private rental cars with white number plates, with taxi owners at various spots stopping these cars and summoning the flying squad to the spot, leading to tourists complaining of harassment. Many tourists now opt to rent cars in neighbouring states and drive down to Goa in these outstation cars, according to sources. Tourists have always complained of the high taxi fares in Goa.