ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Formalising the Informal

A Critical Appraisal

The article “Tech in Work: Organising Informal Work in India” (EPW, 20 May 2017) by Aditi Surie fails to critically examine the tall claims made by platform economy companies like Uber and Ola. A field study in Mumbai points towards the increasing precarity for drivers therein, in stark contrast to the claims of these companies of “formalising the taxi system,” instituting transparency and regulation, and creating the new category of “driver–entrepreneur.”

I read Aditi Surie’s article “Tech in Work: Organising Informal Work in India” (EPW, 20 May 2017) with interest as it deals with an issue that is a crucial part of my ongoing doctoral work, although my focus is on the Mumbai taxis. It is also one of the earliest articles to have detailed the dynamics of platform economies in Indian cities through the case of Uber and Ola. However, I contend that the author has limited herself to one side of the reality of these digitally managed taxi services and falls short of critically examining the claims made by these companies, which are often celebrated by certain technocrats. Her disagreements, if any, with some of the claims are also feeble. Her attempts at pan-Indian generalisations based on her work in Bengaluru could be misleading as my work on Mumbai taxis shows contrary findings.

I question the claims made in the article about the process of “formalisation” of the informally run taxi system in India, and of solving the issues of personal finance, wealth creation, and job security. This response urges one to look beyond what is portrayed in order to know the reality, or at least a slice of it.

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Updated On : 20th Jun, 2018
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