Mumbai: Illegal share-taxi services thrive in city

Quite a few of the woes faced by taxi users in Mumbai arise from the fact that more than a quarter of the share-taxi routes in the city are unauthorised.

Kamal Mishra Aishwarya IyerUpdated: Monday, December 12, 2022, 11:14 AM IST
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Mumbai: Illegal share-taxi services thrive in city | Picture for representation

Mumbai: Quite a few of the woes faced by taxi users in Mumbai arise from the fact that more than a quarter of the share-taxi routes in the city are unauthorised.

Not only commuters but even taxi unions have complained about the blind eye turned by the authorities to the operation of these unauthorised services.

The services are operated even at prominent locations like CSMT, Gateway of India and Churchgate in south Mumbai using Maruti Eeco vans which are officially licensed to carry six passengers but into which are often crammed twice as many, including children.

The police, however, claim the allegations of connivance against them are false and they alert the Regional Transport Office (RTO) whenever an irregularity is spotted, especially on camera.

“Several share-taxi routes starting from CSMT, Gateway, Churchgate, Mumbai Central, Mahalaxmi and Grant Road are unauthorised,” said AL Quadros, long-time General Secretary of the Mumbai Taximen’s Union, the city’s oldest and most prominent black-and-yellow taxicab union.

Commuters also said taxi drivers openly flout rules across different so-called share-taxi routes and not only overcharge passengers but also overload the vehicles.

"Anyone can spot the stools placed in most of the share taxies plying in the city,” said Mayuresh Kamble, 32, a resident of Dadar. “On Saturday I took a share taxi from the Gateway of India to CSMT and the driver charged me Rs30."

Mr Kamble said he was asked to sit on a stool by the driver but he refused. The driver then requested another passenger already in the vehicle to take the stool and gave Kamble a seat in the third row of the vehicle.

Thane resident Ritesh Shah, 28, who travelled from Girgaum Chowpatty to CSMT, said, “I was first offered the front seat by the driver. Then he asked me to make space for another commuter. As I was in a hurry, I complied but it was very inconvenient.”

Mr Quadros said these unauthorised routes are being operated by local goons with the help of the traffic police.

But a traffic police officer dismissed the allegation and claimed that "in the South region especially, taxi drivers mostly abide by rules”, though the illegal operators are plainly visible on the main streets of Fort, a kilometre from the police headquarters.

The officer further claimed that "in case we do find something wrong and they are caught on CCTV cameras, we intimate the RTO, who take strict action”.

An officer from the Colaba traffic division said taxi stands are sanctioned by the RTO and the BMC. “We [the traffic police] have no role to play in the taxi stand part, but if we do receive any complaints, we check on them and, if necessary, act against the offenders.”

Asked about overloading, he said, “There are times when a single officer is out there managing the scene. Sometimes one may miss out on a vehicle or two, as it is humanly impossible to check every vehicle. However, if any taxis are found overloading, challans are issued to the owners.”

The irony is that some of the routes are operated from just outside the office of Maharashtra’s Director General of Police near the Gateway and the office of the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone I) at Bori Bunder.

Another taxi union leader, who did not want to be named, said these illegal share-taxi services are able to operate as they have the blessings of local politicians. He also blamed officials of the Transport Department for the rampant growth of unauthorised share-taxi routes.

“Getting approval for a new share-a-taxi route in the city is not easy,” the union leader said. “That’s why a large number of unauthorised routes have cropped up.”

Explaining the process of setting up a new share-a-taxi route, a Transport Department official said the union has to first send in a request to the RTO, which then approaches the department for consent. “If the Traffic Department does not have any objection, a joint survey is conducted. If the proposed route is found feasible from the point of view of traffic safety and commuter convenience, the RTO gives its approval and fixes the fare.”

The official also passed the buck on to commuters, saying they need to come forward and report errant drivers, though the violations happen on the main street in daylight.

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