‘Taxi drivers facing losses everyday, who will think about their issues?’: A L Quadros, General Secretary of Mumbai Taximen’s Union

Following several representations and warnings of strike by the Mumbai Taximen’s Union – the largest taxi union of Mumbai, the country’s financial capital — the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Transport Authority (MMRTA) last week said that it has proposed a hike in fare and that a decision in the regard will be taken in the next meeting. In an interview with Vallabh Ozarkar, the General Secretary of the union, A L Quadros, who has been pressing for the minimum fare to be increased from Rs 25 to Rs 35, says the process for fare revision is being delayed by the Maharashtra transport department despite the price of CNG increasing by over 35 per cent in the last one year, causing over 50,000 taxi drivers heavy losses on a daily basis. Excerpts:

The minimum fare of taxi was revised in March 2021. Why the demand again?

In the last round of revision, minimum fare of taxi was increased to Rs 25 from Rs 22. This was done considering the increase in the price of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). Now if you see, from August 2021 till today, there has been an increase in the price of CNG by 35 per cent. It has gone up from Rs 48 to Rs 80 per kg after the last fare revision. There are over 50 thousand taxi drivers in the city; during this period, their cost of living has also drastically increased. Apart from fuel, there is an expense for maintaining the vehicles and others. The taxi drivers are poor people who help in commuting in city during emergency situations.

Is there any formula for revision of fare?

In October 2016, Khatua Committee, headed by B C Khatua, was appointed by the Maharashtra government to come up with a fare formula. The panel had recommended to the government that if the CNG price is increased by over 25 per cent after last revision, taxi fare should be immediately revised. The current increase in fuel prices is of more than 25 per cent and hence, the revision is important.

Since when have you been demanding the fare revision and why do you keep threatening to go on strike if the demands are not met?

Even since the prices of CNG have started going up by more than 20-25 per cent, we have been requesting for fare revision and reminding them (the authorities) about it. We have also condemned the hike in fuel prices. So far, we have sent over seven letters to the transport department and additional chief secretary of transport to revise the fare. However, there has been no positive response in this matter. The department and the government have been completely neglecting to act as per the Khatua Committee report recommendations and hence, we were left with no other alternative but to go on strike.

Don’t you feel going on strike will affect the daily routine of people who use taxis to commute to work? You had called for a strike from August 1, what is the status of that?

I know but if we are being ignored by the government, then we have to think up these alternatives. As I said, we have been making several representations. We had called for a token strike of a day on August 1 since the government was neglecting our demand. But Tardeo Regional Transport Officer (RTO), who is also secretary of Mumbai Metropolitan Region Transport Authority (MMRTA), communicated to us informing that the proposal of fare revision has been taken up in the meeting and hence, we have deferred the strike. So, there will be no strike on August 1. I hope the government holds a meeting in the regard soon and revise the fare.

Don’t you feel increasing the basic and minimum fare of taxi will put burden on the commuters who regularly use the service?

But the taxi drivers are facing losses everyday. Who will think about their issues? We would not have demanded for hike in the fare if the CNG prices would not have increased so much. If the prices go down, we will not ask for the revision.

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