A section of drivers working for cab aggregators Ola and Uber began a strike on Tuesday across Delhi-the National Capital Region, demanding an increase in the fares and an extension of the period for loan repayments, PTI reported.

About 250 cab drivers assembled at Mandi House to press for their demands, which included a cut in the commission charged by cab aggregators and the withdrawal of e-challans issued against their vehicles for speeding, said Kamaljeet Singh Gill, president of Sarvodaya Drivers Association of Delhi. But he added that the police dispersed them. Last week, Gill had claimed that about 2 lakh drivers would be a part of the strike.

Residents of Delhi were expected to face difficulties in commuting because of the strike as metro services have not resumed and buses are running with a reduced capacity in view of the coronavirus pandemic. “The strike has led to unavailability of cabs in many parts of the Delhi-NCR including Greater Noida, Dwarka and Uttam Nagar,” Gill had said earlier in the morning.

However, a few people told PTI that they faced no problems in booking a cab. “I had heard about the strike and was initially apprehensive about finding a cab,” Rashmi Dixit, a resident of Palm Olympia Housing Society in Greater Noida, told the news agency. “But I found a cab within five minutes and did not face any issues during the entire trip apart from the morning rush hour traffic.”

Ola and Uber have not yet commented on the impact of the strike.

The drivers had called the strike in fear that banks will tow their vehicles for not paying their equated monthly installments or EMIs. “Due to the acute financial crisis caused by the coronavirus-induced lockdown, drivers are unable to pay their EMIs,” Gill said. “The moratorium of loan repayment ended and the banks are already putting pressure on us. Drivers are scared that banks will tow away their vehicles for not paying EMIs,” he said.

Last week, Gill had pointed out that drivers have to pay huge penalties for speeding. He said that drivers have received about 10–20 challans for driving above 40 km per hour, adding that speed limit for private cars is 50 km per hour.

Gill had also said that the fare was fixed at Rs 6 per km by the companies. This is lower than government rates for taxis that can go up to Rs 12 per km, he added. “If the fare is hiked to at least Rs 10 per km, it will help us earn more and will only be fair to do so,” he said.

The extension on the loan moratorium announced by the Reserve Bank of India ended on August 31. The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it will take up the matter of waiving interest on installments during the moratorium period on Wednesday. During Tuesday’s proceedings, the Centre told the top court that the loan moratorium scheme, introduced during the coronavirus lockdown, can be extended by a period of two years.

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