A DAY after the government relaxed the restriction on fresh permits to be issued for taxis and rickshaws, officials and taxi unions expect a demand of more than one lakh permits by the drivers in the city. Higher demand for the vehicles during peak hours and drivers interested in owning vehicles are cited to be the reasons.
Till March 2017, there were 55,343 kaali-peelis (black and yellow taxis) and 1,39,065 autorickshaws in the Greater Mumbai Region, while Thane region had 8,673 taxis and 1,68,739 rickshaws registered. The new directive would add the number of kaali- peelis and rickshaws by at least 50 per cent, officials said.
“In 2014, a lottery announced to replace old permits with new met with a positive response. Among the 40,000 permits announced, we had received more than 1 lakh applications from drivers. Those who could not qualify then will surely try this time,” said a senior transport official.
Officials said commuters would feel the dearth of cabs in the peak hours on the non-popular routes. “With more number of vehicles in the city, commuters would benefit with an equal number of services. Non-popular routes, like rides in the southern part of Mumbai in the evening hours or to the north in the morning, could get more services,” an official added.
Rickshaw unions have praised the move as it offers opportunities to the drivers to buy their own vehicles. “At least 70 per cent of the drivers, especially in the night hours, ride rickshaws not owned by them. The directive will allow such drivers to invest money into buying a rickshaw and making a living for themselves. Instead of having to pay a rent of Rs 300-400 on a daily basis, the drivers could encash the same,” said Shashank Rao, leader of the Mumbai Auto Rickshaw Taximen’s Union.
The cost of a rickshaw comes to around Rs1.5 lakh. For a taxi or rickshaw permit, an applicant needs to have crossed 20 years of age, studied till Class VIII, attained 15 years of domicile status and should have one year of experience in driving light motor vehicles. A badge has to be obtained before the licence to drive the vehicle.
“Since 1997, while there was no addition in the number of rickshaws in the city, both residents and the floating population in the city grew. With more infrastructure projects like metro corridors and railway lines being built, commuters will feel the need of rickshaws as they form to be the intermediate mode of transport. We now expect the government to give away permits to interested the drivers possessing badges, without looking at other requisites,” Rao added.
Taxi permits, however, might not meet with such a great demand due to stiff competition from other modes of transport in the island city. “While the maximum cost of a taxi goes up to Rs 5 lakh, a permit also costs around Rs15,000. Since the last couple of years, kaali-peeli drivers have lost out on business and earnings due to competition from app-based cabs like Ola and Uber. Unless, they are completely regulated, taxi drivers may hardly show interest in taking those permits,” said K K Tiwari, leader of Swabhiman Taxi Sanghathana.
Parking of vehicles in a city that hardly sees 2,000 stands could become an issue, drivers said. “While the move to increase commuters by transportation is welcome, the government must also pull up a policy to keep a check on the number of private vehicles in the city to reduce traffic congestion. Use of electric-run taxis and rickshaws in the city should be encouraged ,” Ashok Datar, a transport expert said.
As of March 2017, the number of vehicles in Mumbai stands at more than 30 lakh.