Shuttl Says It’ll Run Services For Free Tomorrow After Government Crackdown And FIR Threats Against Founders

Years after first making an appearance in India, shuttle service providers are still having run-ins with the law.

The Transport department in Gurgaon has impounded 52 buses run by Shuttl over the last week. It’s now considering prosecuting its founders over permit violations. Shuttl was founded in 2015, and has raised nearly Rs. 150 crore from prominent investors including Sequoia Capital and Lightspeed Venture Partners. 

shuttl

The transport department, however, claims that Shuttl’s services are illegal. “The company does not have the permit of a stage carrier, yet they are running operations like this. They cannot pick up individual passengers or make routes as such,” an official told DNA. In order to get around the clampdown, Shuttl has been allegedly plying interstate buses to avoid detection, which doesn’t appear to have gone down well with the department. “We are considering lodging an FIR against the owners, as even after repeated action against their operations, they have not withdrawn their services from the city,” the official added.

Shuttle service providers have had an uncomfortable relationship with regulators ever since they’ve been introduced into the country. In 2015, Bangalore-based provider ZipGo had been asked to discontinue operations by the transport department. A few months later, Ola Shuttle and Shuttl had been suspended in Gurgaon and the government had seized their vehicles. The common grouse of government entities seems to be that these services don’t fall under the purview of existing laws. It doesn’t help that they’re seen to directly compete with government-provided bus services — in Bangalore, the government has served Ola Shuttle a notice for running its service along BMTC routes, and in Mumbai, BEST has claimed that being a municipal transport body, it held the monopoly of stage carriage service through which passengers can be picked and dropped from multiple locations.

Another reason why Delhi’s authorities are cagey about bus operators is the horrific rape of student Jyoti Singh that had taken place inside an illegally-run private bus in 2012. Concerned about the security of women in the city, the Ministry of Home Affairs had asked the Delhi government to ensure that no private buses were plying ‘illegally’. Also, Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal had directed the state Transport Department to impound illegally-run private carriers within the city.

Shuttl’s founders say that their services are safer than traditional buses, thanks to their verified drivers and the authenticated boarding and tracking features their app provides. 

Shuttl also plays up the environmental aspect of its service. Delhi is among the most polluted cities in the world, and Shuttle’s CEO Amit Singh says that Shuttl helps take 10,000 cars off the streets every day.

Shuttl, for its part, seems to want to continue its services in spite of the crackdown. A notification sent to users today morning said that its services will be free tomorrow. “You won’t be charged for Shuttling this Monday,” Shuttl said, but also warned users that “authorities may cause disruption.” “But our coaches will play & we will deliver on our promise of a dignified commute. Shuttling is legal and good.”

In a country that doesn’t think highly of dissent, taking the government on head on is a bold move. But if Shuttl can drum up enough support among its users — and running free services in protest might do just that — it could convince the Delhi government to change its stance.

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