The cars began production in the 1960s and they being phased out. The decree to get the Padmini taxis off the road has been shifted this year reducing the age limit of Padminis that can run in the city from 20 years to 15 years. The fact that they stopped manufacturing Padminis in 2000 means this year means they will all be gone this year. Along with them will go a piece of India's history. When I first started there were about 70% of these ‘kaali-peelis’ (black-and-yellow cabs) left, now there are about one in ten. The elaborate Bollywood disco bars on wheels decor that’s often reflective of the driver's personality (a flashy or lonely man will dress up his cab like a bride) are sadly the celebrated art form that are hard to spot on the road now. The ones left seem to only have vinyl interiors instead of kitsch carpet!
Driver after driver attests to the hardiness of the Padmini, its excellent engineering, its compact and passenger-friendly design, and its overall efficiency in getting from points A to B. The ‘kaali-peelis’ represented a good opportunity for ordinary people to earn a living in Bombay. But for the thousands of taxi owners who can't afford to upgrade their vehicles and with the state government favouring the ‘fleet’ taxi companies, resulting in less ‘owner’ drivers. The logic of moving to fleet taxis is a disaster for drivers. Driving one workforce that has some semblance of stability and community into a structure of instability. The combination of Bombay’s move towards to being taken seriously as a global city and the current economic climate, both driver and taxi will be put out to the scrap heap.
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