The city has seen a massive decrease in the number of yellow-and-black taxis and autos in the past 16 years.
While the Mumbai suburban district population grew by 8.29 per cent from 2001 to 2011,the number of taxis and autos fell by 39 and 67 per cent after the boom in 1997,when the city had the most taxis (62,300) and autos (1,04,000) in transport history.
Since then,there has been a sharp decline in the number of dead permits. Over 24,300 taxis and 34,000 autos have died,exacerbating problems of commuters.
A L Quadros,president,Mumbai Taximen Union,said: Change from diesel to CNG,recession,non-replacement of the old and an age cap of 25 saw many taxis go off roads. Many could not renew permits within the six-month validity period.
With the government deciding not to reissue annual fitness certificates to taxis older than 20 years and autos over 16 August 1 onwards,4,500 taxis and 5,000 autos will go off roads in a year.
Bombay High Court (HC) ruled nine years ago that commercial vehicles older than eight years would not be allowed to run in the city. It,however,gave 16 years to autos that converted to CNG. Taxi drivers also managed to convince HC to extend the age limit from 16 to 20 years.
Transport commissioner V N More said a recent government resolution to phase out taxis and autos older than 20 and 16 years was only a reminder of the HC ruling.
During the Hakim committee review of the auto and taxi fare formula,many issues and complaints of commuters were put forward and it was decided that since the condition of old taxis and autos was poor,the age limit set by the court could be effected, he said.
The government and unions,however,hope this will not affect the vehicle count as most owners will buy replacements.
S Sriraman,professor of transport economics,Mumbai University,agrees old vehicles need to be phased out but wants the government to offer soft loans to auto and taxi drivers to buy new vehicles on existing permits.
The requirement of intermediary public transport,such as autos and taxis,should be studied at the earliest and if necessary,permits should be renewed. The population of the city has increased,but not evenly.
While a proposal to renew dead permits is pending before the government,the auto union is pressing for new permits.
Shashank Rao,general secretary,Mumbai Autorickshawmen Union,said the arrival of mono and metro rail in the near future would create new stations and unless new permits are issued,commuters would face a crisis.
But a central government policy prevents new permits in mega cities.
To arrest the growing pollution and congestion,the Centre banned state goverments in 1997 from issuing new auto/taxi permits in big cities.
Sriraman agrees with the central government.
Autos and taxis,which are meant for short-distance travel,are running across the city. If autos run only short distances,passengers will be able to flag vehicles at a faster rate. There is a need to restrict movement of autos and taxis,so that buses run more efficiently.