Calling in a fleet cab may become tougher as the operators, which were making a beeline for more permits until last year, have started surrendering them and some are preparing to withdraw from Mumbai, sources in the taxi industry say.
Of the five companies operating fleet taxis, most are selling back their permits, either directly to permit holder or to others through agents. Sources said that a leading fleet taxi company has already sold back about 10 permits to their original permit holders, while another has circulated a list of about 138 permits with name and contact numbers of permit holders to agents.
With the aim to give a boost to the black-and-yellow taxi service in the city, transport authorities introduced the Fleet Taxi Scheme in March 2006. At present, five fleet taxi companies are operating nearly 4,500 air-conditioned radio cabs in the city. Except Tab Cab, which bought 4,000 permits from the state government, the other companies were forced to procure taxi permits from permit holders for bringing new taxis on the road, which they took on lease from individual permit holders for a period of five to 20 years, paying between Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 2 lakh.
"For selling back the permits, the firms have put up a price tag of Rs. 80,000 to Rs. 1.5 lakh," said a taxi industry source. He added that as a company is selling them through agents, they are extracting their commission from permit holders or buyers.
"Except Tab Cab, all fleet taxi companies like Meru and Easy Cab are selling back their permits," alleged KK Tiwari, general secretary of Swabhiman Taxi-Rickshaw Sanghatana. He added the deals are illegal and the interest of permits holders should be safeguarded.
Sanjeev Rana, general manager (operations) of Easy Cab, said, "We are not selling our permits. In fact, we are looking for more for expansion of our service in Mumbai."
However, Siddharth Phawa, chief executive officer of Meru Cab, refused to reply to the query about selling back permits.facts are distorted.