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Code blue for all cabs

All yellow taxis in Calcutta must have “no refusal” inscribed in blue-bold caps across their rear doors just like the white-and-blue fleet, the Mamata Banerjee government declared on Friday.

The notification aims to remove confusion among passengers over whether yellow taxis are at liberty to refuse passengers just because they don’t bear the words “no refusal”.

The transport department’s order — WT/3M-50/2013 — states that “no refusal” shall be “inscribed in navy blue on the centre of the two rear doors of all yellow-coloured metered taxis”. The vehicle registration authorities have been asked to ensure strict compliance before issuing fitness certificates to yellow taxis.

Copies of the order, which takes immediate effect, will be on the notice boards at all offices of the public vehicles department and the regional transport authorities.

“There appears to have been some confusion about the two different categories of taxis because of the logo ‘no refusal’, though legally no taxi driver can refuse a passenger,” transport minister Madan Mitra said. “This notice should do away with the divide.”

The notification may have made the no-refusal promise universal but the malady of refusal is unlikely to be cured by a logo.

On February 26, Metro had highlighted through a sample survey conducted two days earlier how the newer white-and-blue taxis were only slightly less prone to refusing passengers than their incorrigible yellow counterparts.

Six out of the 12 no-refusal taxis surveyed either refused or demanded more than the metered fare to various destinations, proving that a promise made isn’t necessarily a promise kept.

The reasons for refusal were almost the same as those offered by the yellow taxis during another survey two months ago. The redeeming feature was that the drivers of the white-and-blue taxis were less rude in refusing passengers.

Rule 120(I)(c) of the West Bengal Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989, states: “A driver shall not refuse to carry any passenger whenever the metered taxi is empty and in a public place, irrespective of whether meter is down or in ‘hire’ condition.”

Contravention of this rule invites a minimum fine of Rs 2,000 under Section 192A of the Motor Vehicles Act. In reality, traffic sergeants usually slap a fine of not more than Rs 100 for taxi refusal. “The driver’s licence gets punched. Five such instances and the licence gets cancelled,” an officer said.

But that is hardly a threat to the livelihood of the taxi drivers, who often have multiple driving licences with different residential addresses. Punch one licence five times but they might have five more to remain in business!

Asked why the police wouldn’t fine an errant driver Rs 2,000, as specified by law, an officer of the South Traffic Guard blamed “faulty interpretation” of rules for the token penalty.

Friday’s notification is an amendment to a February 2005 order that had made it mandatory for yellow taxis to have a blue border with the word “taxi” inscribed on two doors. According to the new directive, the transport department is required to ensure that the navy blue “no refusal” logos measuring 7x7 cm are inscribed in the middle of the two rear doors.

“The logo will be pasted when a taxi is undergoing a fitness test at any RTA or PVD office,” a senior transport official said. “It will take around a year to complete the process.”

Calcutta has close to 20,000 yellow taxis and around 700 white-and-blue ones.

Senior officials couldn’t say whether taxis that had recently undergone the periodic fitness test would be recalled for the no-refusal branding.