The Maharashtra government's decision to phase out the old ubiquitous black and yellow premier padmini taxis that are more than 25 year old in the country's financial capital has given automobile companies, which are facing declining sales due to the economic slowdown, a reason to smile.
Out of 55,000 odd taxis plying in Mumbai, a little over 8,000 are more than 25 years old. However, Maruti Udyog Ltd has taken the lead over its rivals by tying up with Taximen Union, which is the largest union of taximen in the city, for the sale of 200 Maruti Omni vans.
Speaking with Business Standard, the state transport secretary Ramanath Jha said, "The decision to phase out taxis that are more than 25 years old is not taken because of environmental concerns but because of issues related to road worthiness of these vehicles". Environmental concerns have been addressed to a large extent by converting them to CNG, he added.
"Whenever a taxi owner, whose taxi is more than 25 years old, comes up for renewal of the permit, he will be asked to buy a new vehicle, which fits within the guidelines laid down by the transport department before his permit is renewed."
"As Maruti Omnis are low on cost and maintenance, we decided to go for them. And they also have large luggage space compared to other modern cars, observed Taximen Union president A L Quadros.
"Besides, this company is also giving us a discount of around Rs 45,000 as we are placing bulk orders and expect delivery of these vehicles by the end of this month," Quadros added.
Though the largest taxi union has decided to cooperate with the state government, some other smaller unions have decided to oppose the decision, while some of them have challenged the decision in the Bombay high court.
Opposing union leader Sharad Rao, who has significant clout among auto rickshaw owners and drivers, has given a call for strike of taxis and auto rickshaws from Wednesday midnight.