NOVEMBER 8: Tata's swanky small car Indica will soon be donning black and yellow colours to replace the Premier Padmini as Mumbai's taxicab of the future. Telco representatives today committed to supplying the taxi trade with the first batch of 200 Indicas by early next year even as other manufacturers pledged their cars to fill in the gap left by the Padmini.
At a meeting of taxi unions, car manufacturers, NGOs and banks at the transport commissioner's office on Monday, representatives of Telco, Hindustan Motors and Fiat promised to meet the demand arising out of the phase-out of old taxis in the city. ``There doesn't seem to be any problem to replace the 30,000 taxis over 15 years old if the Bombay High Court gives such a directive,'' said Transport Commissioner Vinay Mohan Lal.
According to Lal, these 30,000 taxis comprised over 70 per cent of the city's 55,000 taxis and were the major polluters. Today's meeting was convened to examine whether it was feasible to replace these taxis with models other than Padmini.
Three car manufacturers offered their Euro-II compliant models for the taxi trade today. Hindustan Motors, Fiat and Telco offered both diesel and petrol-CNG versions of the Ambassador, Uno and Indica respectively. If all offers are taken up by the taxi trade, it will amount to a dilution of the monopoly enjoyed by Premier Padmini for almost two decades. ``If Mumbai's public travel in status symbols like Euro II Tata Indicas, it will indeed be a step forward,'' said Lal.
Telco's representatives said they were willing to offer any number of vehicles, and a first batch of 200 Indicas will be made available by early next year. Taximen say it is a marked change in stance from last year. ``We had approached Telco for the Indica last year since Premier had virtually stopped making the Padmini, but the reply was that they wanted to meet the requirement of the passenger car segment first,'' said Devdas Salian, Assistant General Secretary of the Bombay Taxi Association.
Taximen say that the imported components of the Fiat Uno make it prohibitively expensive to operate as a taxi. ``The cost of a single headlamp of an Uno is Rs 1,700 since the parts are imported, with the Indica the parts are at least manufactured locally,'' said Jastar Singh Gill, general secretary of the association. The taximen have also demanded low interest rates from banks for buying the cars and concessions in sales and excise taxes.
``Hundreds of taximen have spent over a lakh each for changing over from petrol to diesel run vehicles, they haven't finished paying back their loans as yet,''said Salian, adding that the government should compensate taxi drivers for scrapping their old vehicles. Significantly, the contentious issue of taxis boycotting fitness checks at RTOs did not figure in today's meeting.
Copyright © 1999 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.