Following several strike representations and warnings by the Mumbai Taximen’s Union – the largest taxi union in Mumbai, the country’s financial capital – the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Transport Authority (MMRTA) said last week that it had proposed a hike tariffs and that a decision on this will be taken into account at the next meeting. In an interview with Vallabh Ozarkar, the union’s general secretary, AL Quadros, who lobbied for the minimum fare to be raised from Rs 25 to Rs 35, said the fare review process was delayed by the transport department of Maharashtra despite the price of CNG has risen by more than 35% in the past year, causing heavy losses to more than 50,000 taxi drivers every day. Excerpts:
The minimum taxi fare was revised in March 2021. Why this request again?
In the last revision, the minimum taxi fare was increased from Rs 25 to Rs 22. This was done in view of the increase in the price of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). Now, if you see, from August 2021 to today, there has been a 35% increase in the price of CNG. It went from Rs 48 to Rs 80 per kg after the last tariff revision. There are over 50,000 taxi drivers in the city; during this period, their cost of living also increased considerably. Besides fuel, there is an expense for vehicle maintenance and the like. Taxi drivers are poor people who help move around town during emergency situations.
Is there a rate revision formula?
In October 2016, the Khatua Committee, led by BC Khatua, was appointed by the government of Maharashtra to come up with a tariff formula. The panel had recommended to the government that if the price of CNG is increased by more than 25 percent after the last review, the taxi fare should be revised immediately. The current increase in fuel prices is more than 25% and therefore the review is significant.
Since when do you demand the revision of tariffs and why do you continue to threaten to strike if the demands are not met?
Even since CNG prices started to increase by more than 20-25%, we asked for a revision of the tariffs and we reminded them (the authorities). We also condemned the rise in fuel prices. So far, we have sent more than seven letters to the Department of Transportation and the Chief Secretary of Additional Transportation to revise the tariff. However, there has been no positive response to this. The ministry and the government completely failed to act on the recommendations of the Khatua Committee report and as a result we had no alternative but to strike.
Don’t you think the strike will affect the daily routine of people who use taxis to get to work? You called for a strike on August 1, where are we?
I know, but if we’re being ignored by the government, then we have to think of those alternatives. As I said, we did several performances. We had called for a symbolic one-day strike on August 1 since the government was ignoring our request. But Tardeo Regional Transport Officer (RTO), who is also the secretary of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Transport Authority (MMRTA), informed us that the tariff review proposal was taken up at the meeting and therefore we postponed the strike. So there will be no strike on August 1st. I hope the government will hold a meeting soon in this regard and revise the tariff.
Don’t you think that increasing the base and minimum taxi fare will put a burden on commuters who regularly use the service?
But taxi drivers face losses every day. Who will think about his problems? We wouldn’t have demanded a tariff increase if CNG prices hadn’t gone up so much. If the prices go down, we will not ask for the revision.