The black and yellow taxi fleet is as synonymous with Mumbai as the iconic Gateway of India. The taxi fleet has been the lifeline of Mumbai’s commuters and along with the BEST has become a necessity more than a utility in the city of seven islands. However, of late the image of the taxi fleet has been taking a beating, quite literally in
many cases over the fare hikes, fleecing, refusal to ply and the migrant issue.
The recent fare hike – where the minimum fare has been upped by Rs 3 (minimum fare Rs 19) – has hit the average Mumbaikar hard. Each fare has gone up by an average of Rs 18-30, which in turn has turned many travellers into a disgruntled lot. Quarrels and tiffs over the new fare are rampant across the streets of the city. Tired with the constant squabbling, many commuters have taken to alternative means to complete their commute.
While some have taken to the old faithful BEST, others have begun walking to the railways station or workplace. Some with the luxury of short commutes have even resorted to using the bicycle to save the ‘exorbitant’ cab fare.
Nisha Naidu, who works for an NGO in Santacruz, has dropped the idea of using the taxi/auto mode for her daily commute. “The distance from my home to the station is barely 10 minutes, but I would almost always have to wait for 15 minutes to find a cab that would agree to ply me. And now even with this hiked fare, I find it difficult to get a cab in the morning. I have decided to walk to the station in the morning, and I am not alone. I have 4 more women from my neighbourhood who take the same train, and we all walk to the station together.” Naidu adds, “These cabs and autos run on CNG and hike their fares every time petrol prices are hiked. This is just a ploy to fleece the general public.”
Naidu is not the only one who is sweating it out thanks to the fare hike. Mansha-ur-Rehman, a fitness freak, has also been avoiding the cab fleet post the hike. Rehman uses a bicycle for his 15-minute commute to the station every day. “Cycling for 30 minutes everyday is a very healthy way of keeping fit. I park my cycle at the station and take the train to work. Then I walk to my office. This fare hike seems to have come as a blessing in disguise. I usually spend about 2 hours at the gym everyday, now with the two cycling trips that I make I am already warmed up by the time I hit the gym in the evening,” said Rehman. “At the end of the day, I have been putting Rs 60 in a savings pot,” he adds.
Gulafshan Khan, a schoolteacher, needs to take a taxi and an auto for her daily commute to school. However, now she has started leaving home early and taking the BEST bus to beat the hiked fare. “I am paying around Rs 20 for my daily commute to work and back when I take the bus. With the new cab hike I was forced to shell out Rs 55 daily. I cannot afford to pay so much for my daily commute on my salary. Taking the bus seemed the only feasible option.”
As more and more Mumbaikars are avoiding the taxi fleet, the drivers are feeling the pinch too. Ramprasad Yadav, a taxi driver based in Kurla, said that though his daily earnings have crossed Rs 500, the frequency of his trips has dipped. “Before the hike, I was never sitting idle even for 10 minutes. Almost as soon as one passenger got
off, another two-three would be waiting to hire the cab. But now, I see people waiting at bus stops but not hailing my cab. I have to roam around searching for passengers now,” said Yadav.
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