Pilots of Goa motorcycles have suffered the burden of Covid for almost two years and are now struggling with sky-high fuel prices.

In the run-up to last year’s election in Goa, Rahul Gandhi was on election rounds in the state and decided to take a motorcycle taxi to a political meeting. The driver, or “pilot,” as he is called in the state, would feel great pride and be sure to discuss his situation when customers are afraid to sit on the body, given the risk of Covid and fewer people leaving because of curfew. Riding for riding was created for good optics – Gandhi made sure he wore a helmet and mask when he followed the pilot – and moreover, there was no price increase.

However, with the results and the return of the BJP to power in the state, everything has changed. The government soon announced a rapid rise in gasoline prices, starting with an increase of 80 pais. The pilot fraternities in the state are again concerned. As one pilot Murtaza, who has been working for almost ten years, says: “Fuel prices have already been high, and now the latest increases could affect our business.” A few months before the hike, many asked for a little more money or just said “pay as you want”, hoping for generous tips. Many pilots have loyal customers and so they don’t want to be seen overpriced.

As a rule, the standard rate for the first kilometer is 20 rupees, and then – 10 rupees per kilometer for each additional. But, as one pilot put it, at fuel prices well above 100 rupees per liter, charging 10 rupees is no longer economical. Another pilot says neither the RTO nor the motorcycle taxi association have raised official tariffs to reflect the latest increase.

With Goa’s increasingly chaotic transport in urban areas, traveling with a pilot gives a sense of speed in a state where the atmosphere is generally light. You can weave in and out of the road roar and be on the road.

Most pilots come from very humble backgrounds. For many, working as a pilot is the only job they know, and those who are 40-50 years old say they can’t think of another job. One pilot said he had a job in construction but the pay was volatile and he didn’t like working in the sun for long. So he got a job as a pilot and now has a little control over his life and “earns a decent living.” Another gave up carpentry because people now buy ready-made furniture, and became a pilot.

As part of the job creation scheme, the government subsidizes the cost of the motorcycle, “provided it is used,” said Fazl, who works as a butcher in the bakery during the day and as a pilot in the evening. The subsidy ranges from Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000.

Different brands are used, but the most common are Splendor and CD Dawn. As one pilot put it, the mileage that a bike gives is important in our business, and Splendor has achieved that figure. However, many now choose the Honda Shine because, as Fazl says, “the parts last longer and have a good speed.”

In a cohesive community, many pilots have a loyal clientele that takes care of them when they have urgent work. There have been no known cases of sexual assault, so many women choose a pilot on assignments nearby. According to media reports, the motorcycle taxi association has 4,500 members, many of whom can be seen on Facebook. However, today there are many “illegals” without permits who have been seizing business for a long time.

As tourists return to the state for the first summer vacation after the pandemic, and schools reopen, pilots can only hope that better days are ahead. Abrigade.


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