The Bombah high court on Monday termed Mumbai's iconic Victoria carriages "completely illegal" and directed the Maharashtra government to ensure that the hrose-drive carriages are taken off the roads within a year.
Fore many Victoria operators, this is the only work they have ever done.
Twenty-year-old Vishal Nayak could easily pass off a tourist visiting the Gateway of India if he were not sitting in the driver’s seat of a horse carriage. Nayak came to Mumbai from a small town in Rajasthan six years ago and took to riding horse carriages instantly.
The youngest of the three siblings, Nayak says riding Victorias is his livelihood. “I cannot imagine what I will do once Victorias are discontinued. I have been taking people on carriages rides for a long time. But I know I will have to do something else soon,” Nayak says, seated on his carriage near Gateway of India.
Mohammed Hashim, 33, has a similar story. He has a family of five, including two young daughters, to feed. “I have been doing this for 15 years – half my life. Why are they taking away our means of earning bread honestly? We are only trying to make ends meet. Who will feed our children once this end?” he asks. Hashim says there is no association or union of horse carriage riders, adding that he will protest the high court order.
Imran Hussain, another rider, agrees. “We will protest this. Many families will be affected by this. Even chariot makers will lose their jobs,” he says.
Drivers claim they take care of their horses despite claims that the animals are treated poorly. Many Victoria operators who used to start their day at noon say they now take their chariots out only after 5pm. "It is unbearable for us to be out in the scorching heat, so we can understand the plight of the horses," said another.