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Snarl in city in taxi meter race

Calcutta, Dec. 21: Long queues of yellow taxis threw traffic out of gear in a south Calcutta pocket this morning as over a thousand drivers turned up at the Beltala office of the public vehicles department to recalibrate meters ahead of the December 23 deadline.

Monday could be worse if the transport department does not accept by then a demand to push back the deadline.

Sources in the public vehicles department (PVD) said only a third of the 22,000-odd taxies registered in Calcutta had got their meters recalibrated, so deadline extension was possibly the only option.

“We have written to the transport department requesting that the last date be pushed back as most taxis have not yet made the transition and it would take over three months to complete the process,” a senior PVD official said.

In September, the transport department had directed all drivers to get taxi meters recalibrated so that they displayed the exact fare. The idea was to save passengers the trouble of complex calculations or trusting a piece of paper handed by the cabbie.

The actual fare is now arrived at by multiplying the meter reading by 2.4 and adding Re 1. Once recalibrated, the meters should read Rs 25 (instead of Rs 10) at the start of the journey.

A transport department official said meter manufacturers the government had approached had provided only three-four vendors from where the new chip for the recalibrated meters could be collected, causing delay.

Too few motor vehicles inspectors to check the recalibrated meters is another reason the process has been held up, the sources said.

With the deadline barely 48 hours away and a Sunday in between, taxi drivers said they had no alternative but to queue up again on Monday. “I have changed my meter but PVD officials need to certify it. Only then can I ply on the road. But that is taking so much time,” said a driver who had been waiting over two hours near Beltala after his taxi meter had been recalibrated.

The number of taxis kept increasing through the day. Across stretches of Ashutosh Mukherjee Road (between Elgin Road and Jadubabur Bazar), SP Mukherjee road, Hazra Road, Ballygunge Circular Road and Sarat Bose Road, drivers queued up in double lines, causing traffic snarls.