Mumbai: Migrant taxi drivers return, but cab shortage to persist

The easing of lockdown protocols has ushered migration back to Mumbai and its metropolitan region. This included the taxi drivers as well wherein the majority of them had reverse migrated to their hometowns in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and other states owing to Covid-19 pandemic. However, despite their return, Mumbaikars would not be getting the required number of cabs on road in the coming days.

Many of the black and yellow taxis, which remain to be iconic to Mumbai’s vital mode of public transportation, are lying on road. For the past one-and-half years there have been two waves of Covid-19 that have caused immense trouble for people, their lives and livelihood. This also includes the black and yellow taxis which have been parked by their owners and drivers in different parts of Mumbai.

“At least 40 percent of the total taxis badly need repairs and maintenance. So even though the drivers have and are returning; there need not be enough taxis available on road for people. Moreover, the state government for some reason, has conveniently ignored the drivers and owners in taxi trade although auto rickshaw drivers have been provided financial assistance,” said A Quadros, senior taxi union leader.

There were 20,000 black and yellow taxis running on the road during pre-Covid times. Of these, according to the unions, barely 50 percent will be available and out of the remaining taxis; around 40 percent need repairs for which the cost incurred would be anywhere between Rs 5 to 30,000. The remaining 10 percent of taxis would still be lying idle owing to drivers yet to return from their native towns and villages.

The RTO officials claim that remuneration packages for auto-rickshaw drivers were decided by the state government and they have little say on the same. The auto unions had been demanding another round of Rs 1,500 to be provided to the 7.50 lakh drivers across the state that includes 4.50 lakh drivers in Mumbai and its metropolitan region.

Quadros claims that there have been cases of thefts of parts from these black and yellow taxis but then the drivers and owners do not have money with them. Around 20-25,000 odd taxi drivers have returned to Mumbai though there were close to 40,000 drivers who were driving the cabs in shifts.

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Free Press Journal