The Mamata Banerjee-government has extended the deadline for recalibration of taxi meters by three months, giving around 15,000 taxis the licence to delay using meters that display the exact fare over a particular distance.
The extension came after the Beltala office of the public vehicles department pleaded helplessness in the face of a last-minute rush to meet the December 23 deadline.
Thousands of taxis had queued up at the Bhowanipore address on Saturday morning to get their meters recalibrated, throwing traffic in the neighbourhood haywire. Officials of the PVD almost panicked at the sight and sent word that there was no way they could complete the task before the deadline, sources said.
The PVD is equipped to recalibrate 450-500 taxi meters a day, but officials estimate that it could take around three more months to ensure that the entire fleet of 22,000-odd vehicles switches to the new metering system.
“All these months, only 30-40 taxis would turn up every day for recalibration of fare meters. The surge of taxis on Saturday was because the deadline was 48 hours away,” a senior official said.
The government had notified taxi operators about the switch to a precise metering system in September. The idea was to spare passengers the trouble of a complex calculation or the possibility of being duped with a faulty fare chart.
Since the December 2012 fare hike, passengers have had to calculate the fare with this formula: meter reading multiplied by 2.4 plus 1. For the arithmetically challenged, a frayed or torn fare chart showing the fare against a particular meter reading is the easier way out. There is, of course, no way of knowing for someone new to Calcutta if the fare chart carried by the taxi driver is fudged.
Sources said barely 7,000 taxis had got their fare meters recalibrated so far. The three-month extension could see the bulk of fleet go slow until the next deadline looms.
“We had information yesterday night itself that there would be an extension. So I did not go to the PVD again on Monday,” said Pawan Shaw, a taxi driver waiting for passengers at the Hazra crossing. “There is enough time to get my car’s meter recalibrated.”
A transport official insisted there would not be another extension. “We will talk to the taxi unions and operators to send out the message that there won’t be a third deadline,” he said.