In Black and Yellow
November 22, 2007 5:45 PM
Old black and yellow taxis on the road: 55,000
Number of Premier Padminis in that number: 52,000
The age of these cars: 5-25
New cars on the road: Tata Indica, Maruti 800, Hyundai Santro
Number of new cars: 3,000
Registered cabbies: 70,000
It's tough changing the way taxis operate in Mumbai but all the three instances have one factor in common; all three experiments show that shades other than the predominant black-and-yellow have a place on Mumbai's roads.
When the changes were first mooted, not many gave them a chance. Mumbai would have to live with the rickety, old, black-and-yellow fleet, the skeptic predicted, thinking up dozens of reasons why they could not be replaced.
Well, a year after the first private taxis hit the road, the taxi fleet is changing the colour, albeit slowly.
Around 3,000 of Mumbai's 50,000 plus strong taxi fleet now either sport other colours or are cars that belong to a generation different from Premier Padminis'.
But the change has not been without share of problems.
The shift from a Padmini to an Indica or Wagon R does make a dent in the finance of the regular cabbie.
But even the Premier Padmini die-hards in the city now admit that the changes are here to stay and say they are getting round to becoming accustomed to those changes.
Bombay Taximen's Union president Anthony Quadros was one of those who opposed the move. He still feels the government should give subsidies to cabbies to modernize.
"The government should look at the modernization of the black-and-yellow taxis in the same light as technical upgradation of small scale industries and provide incentives," he said.
Mustaq Qureshi of the City Taxi Union pointed out that the initial economics was loaded against the new-generation Cars: "A second-hand Padmini still comes for Rs 1 lakh whereas a second-hand Wagon R will cost at least double that amount."
Bombay Taximen's Union's Quadros agreed that the cost factor was prohibitive. " There are cases where chauffeurs have to take a loan for buying a new vehicle and then have to pay back Rs 12,000 a month. This can be very difficult", he said. But he, too, admitted that many of the black-and-yellow taxis were changing to Cool Cabs with a higher fare structure.
The writing on the wall could not be clearer.