TAXI DRIVERS at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) have opposed the demand by airport authorities to shift their parking base from the present spot near Terminal 1, the domestic terminal. The alternative location they have been offered does not accommodate their fleet and hurts business interests, drivers claim.
Fleets of the kaali-peeli (black and yellow) taxis and the air-conditioned (AC) cabs have been asked to move to a spot near Gate number 9, to make space for GVK’s ambitious Sky City project involving development of land around the airport. Space is also reportedly being cleared for the upcoming Mumbai Metro 3 Line from Colaba to Seepz, which will pass via the airport.
Taxi drivers claim that the allotted land is smaller and can only accommodate a maximum of 100 taxis, 80% fewer than the present strength of 500 taxis. “ The new plot is smaller and only allows for the business of 100 taxis, which is not sufficient for our present strength of fleets. The allotted land further drifts us away from the pick-up points of commuters, which will affect our business. Since the past three months, authorities have been threatening us,” said Kanhaiya Singh, union leader of the Mumbai Taximen Sanghatana at CSIA.
Drivers claim this is not the first time that they have been asked to shift. “Airport authorities keep trying new experiment without any intimation to taxi drivers and taxi unions. Every month, they appoint new security officials who take time to understand the system, and in the meantime drive away our quota of customers,” Singh said.
Demands for CCTV cameras, drinking water and toilets in the parking base near the international airport are yet to be met, drivers claim. “Taxi fleet spaces near the international airport have been asking for drinking water and proper toilets for long. We had also asked for CCTV cameras for security and dividers between AC cabs and kaali – peelis, which is yet to happen,” Singh said.
A total of 30 security guards and supervisors handle taxi operations around Terminal 1 on a daily basis. Airport authorities claim they face a lot of congestion from the rising number of taxis being parked right in front of the arrival point.
“Many taxi drivers come and wait right outside the arrival point in spite of a dedicated space to park their cabs. Their rising presence adds to congestion woes. Also, efforts are on to solve the deadlock between the shifting of parking space,” a Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) spokesperson said.
However, Singh claimed authorities have given them till August 15 to clear the space. “They have asked us to give them the land by August 15. If they try to do this forcefully, we will call a strike,” Singh said.
A total of 2,700 taxis operate around the CSIA, of which 1,500 are air-conditioned while the rest are kaali-peelis.