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End of the road?

The black-and-yellow as you know it could soon cease to exist. The iconic Padmini is being replaced by a fleet of plush new cars. And commuters couldn’t be happier. Rajendra Aklekar reports.

india Updated: Mar 02, 2009 01:20 IST
Rajendra Aklekar
Rajendra Aklekar
Hindustan Times

At one time, they were iconic symbols of the City of Dreams, immortalised in film posters and songs.

But that was decades ago. Now rickety and worn, the Bombay High Court recently ruled that all black-and-yellow taxis older the 25 must be replaced.

And, with the Premier Padmini out of production, Mumbai’s new taxis are transforming, with everything from

Over 7,000 of the total 55,000 are already been sold, virtually as scrap, for as little as Rs 10,000 to Rs 12,000 per vehicle. The rest will soon follow suit. Premier Padmini Fiat cabs that have ruled Mumbai for on city’s roads will now officially be history following a court order all the taxis that are more than 25 years old have to be scrapped.

In fact, the State Transport Authority (STA) has formally decided to scrap all taxis that are 25 years old by December 4 this year. The state government had also announced in the assembly session in July that the government would study the best way to deal with the city’s old cabs (Hindustan Times, July 23, 2008). The STA’s decision is in line with the government policy.

“The old Fiat taxis of Mumbai have been in a very bad condition. The rides are not comfortable and I used to avoid these,” said Andheri (E) resident Rajesh Maurya (31), a consultant with a nationalised bank, adding, “I am waiting for the new cabs.”

His view is reiterated by 23-year-old Amol Khanna. “The ancient romance of Fiats is fine but see their condition” says the Santacruz resident, a student of Bhavan’s College. “The change has come in after I think, 20 years. It is most welcome.”

Fiat company that manufactured Premier Padmini Fiat cabs in the mid-60s shut down in 1999 and original spare parts of the cabs are not available, but old cabs nevertheless continue to ply as they are economical and require very little maintenance. Though original spares are not available, there are garages that make available Padmini spares easily. New cars would mean more money.

But now taximen seem to have found suitable replacements for the loyal Premier Padmini Fiat.

“Omni vans, WagonRs, Santros, Altos and even Logans… The Mumbai taxi is changing and we are trying to get more comfortable models for passengers,” Anthony L Quadros, general secretary of Mumbai Taximen’s Union told Hindustan Times.

To counter the black and yellow cabs, the state government floated a fleet taxi scheme a year ago, inviting private firms to run cabs in Mumbai with certain minimum mandatory requirements like electronic meters with printers, air-conditioned cabs, trained drivers and an enhanced communication system.

Three companies — Gold Cabs, Meru and Mega Cabs — are plying taxis under the scheme. Though the scheme has been running successfully in Mumbai, the taxis are yet to pick up steam, and the black-and-yellow taxis still remain the best bet for Mumbaiites.

First Published: Mar 02, 2009 01:19 IST