An attempt to politicise the state government crackdown on illegal cabs and a court case filed by the taxi union have resulted in a delay in the upgrade of Mumbai’s taxi fleet.
The Transport Department was to have auctioned 4,000 taxi permits over the next few days. That was until Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray demanded that all of them be given to Marathis rather than fleet taxi companies and the Mumbai Taxi Union approached court over the permits’ sale.
Thackeray said the application fees for permits and licences have become unaffordable. “Thousands of Marathi youths are registered with employment forums; they should be given these permits,” said Thackeray.
The union, on the other hand, wants the permits to be given to drivers of existing black-and-yellow taxis. The union said the government was killing the “heritage taxis”. “We approached court as these permits belong to the black-and-yellow cab drivers,” said AL Quadros, general secretary, Mumbai Taxi Union.
The Transport Department was supposed to open bids for these permits in September-end, but deferred it to October 1 after private bidders asked for more time to complete the formalities. Now, following Thackeray’s demand and the court case, the process is on hold.
“The sale of 4,000 permits has been postponed,” confirmed Transport Department sources on condition of anonymity.
The sale of these permits would have transformed taxi users’ commute. Faster, plush taxis would have hit Mumbai’s roads. Models such as Honda City, Tata Manza and Toyota Camry would have been part of the radio taxi fleets.
The delay also means there are fewer taxis on Mumbai’s roads. Of the 55,000 taxis in the city, the permits of 11,000 have expired. About 7,000 taxis are illegal with wrong chassis numbers and number plates or are in garages or at RTOs awaiting completion of formalities.
Nearly 30 per cent are stationed at airports or railway stations, leaving only 29,000 taxis for regular commuters.
Transport Commissioner Dilip Jadhav said the new permit policy would stay until the court directs otherwise.