Many of Calcutta’s nonchalant cabbies think the Mamata Banerjee government’s decision to make the “no-refusal” display mandatory for all yellow taxis is an “election gimmick” they needn’t lose sleep over.
“The (transport) minister can say whatever he wants to sitting in his air-conditioned room. But while on the road, the onus is on us to decide who to ferry and who to refuse,” a driver told Metro at Ekbalpore on Monday afternoon.
Several others dared passengers to lodge complaints and police to act against them, mocking transport minister Madan Mitra’s assertion: “Legally, no taxi driver can refuse a passenger.”
Metro, which has been highlighting the plight of passengers refused or overcharged by taxi drivers, hit the road for the second time in a week on Monday to find out how the notification has affected cabbie behaviour, if at all. Nine out of 12 taxis surveyed, including one from the newly launched white fleet, either refused to go to a destination or demanded more than the metered fare.
Driver: I won’t go that way.
Metro: Don’t you know that no taxi can refuse a passenger?
Driver: No, I can, this is not a “no-refusal” taxi.
Metro: The transport minister has said every taxi is a “no-refusal” one.
Driver: The minister can say whatever he wants to…. On the road, we decide…. Please go away and don’t bother me.
Taxi No: WB 04 7743
Driver: You will have to pay Rs 50 over the metered fare.
Metro: You are not supposed to overcharge. The police can fine you.
Driver: You think I am afraid of the police? Tell my name to any sergeant here.
Metro: I will lodge a complaint against you.
Driver: Do what you want. You can find a sergeant at the crossing in front of you. You can even take a picture of my car like some passengers do.
Taxi No: WB 04B 0681
Place: Ekbalpore, opposite CMRI
Driver: The fare will be Rs 300.
Metro: But that’s way too much. I have a patient waiting at the hospital, please co-operate.
Driver: So what can I do if you have a patient? Will you pay the return fare from Howrah?
Taxi No: WB 19B 0850
Driver: Pay me Rs 30 over the metered fare.
Metro: Why should I pay more? An order has been issued against such practices, don’t you know?
Driver: Such orders are issued every time before an election. It’s an election gimmick.
Taxi No: WB 04E 6521
Place: Chandni Chowk
Driver: I won’t go by the meter. Pay me Rs 400.
Metro: That’s absurd. Why would I pay you so much?
Driver: Ok, pay Rs 350.
Metro: No, I will pay what the meter shows. You can’t overcharge any passenger.
Driver: You take a train. I can drop you till Sealdah for Rs 50.
Taxi No: WB 04E 9451
Place: Park Street
Driver: I won’t go that way.
Metro: You can’t refuse to take me where I want to go. The government has issued a notification against taxi refusal.
Driver: What notification? I haven’t heard of it.
Metro: If you refuse, the fine is Rs 2,000.
Driver: But I still won’t go to Behala.
Vehicle speeds away
Taxi No: WB 04E 6514
Place: Harish Mukherjee Road
Driver: I won’t go that way. I have to park the car at a garage in Bhowanipore.
Metro: Then why are you standing here?
Driver: I can stand wherever I want. I can take a passenger going to south Calcutta.
Metro: You cannot refuse any passenger according to the government notification issued recently. Be aware that I can lodge a complaint against you.
Driver: I don’t care about any government order. I have connections in the taxi union and the party.
Taxi No: WB 04E 1312
Driver: I won’t go that way.
Metro: But you can’t refuse a passenger.
Driver: I will be forced to get into the prepaid taxi queue once I reach Howrah. Why should I take the trouble?
Metro: Aren’t you aware of the new government notification that says all taxis need to bear the “no refusal” logo?
Driver: So what? That is the way you treat poor people. I won’t go. Do what you want to do.
Taxi No: WB 04E 9005
Driver: I won’t go.
Metro: You can’t say no, especially with “no refusal” displayed in bold on your taxi.
Driver: I have some urgent work back home and I won’t go that way. I am sorry.
Taxi No: WB 04F 3836 (white cab)
Taxi No: WB 04F 0051
Taxi No: WB 04B 6966
Taxi No: WB 04F 9366 (white cab)
a TAXI RIDE THROUGH CONTINENTS, by the rule book
There is no such thing as a perfect taxi service, be it in London, New York or Mumbai. But what makes hiring a taxi in Calcutta the most frustrating experience for a commuter is the lack of deterrents against harassment and a grievance redress system that barely works. Metro talks taxi rules and compliance across continents
|A London taxi
• Three fare bands for taxis. The lowest fare band is applicable from 6am till 10pm on weekdays; the slightly higher band from 8pm to 10pm on weekdays and 6am to 10pm on Saturdays and Sundays; and the highest band from 10pm to 6am on weekdays and on public holidays. The increase in fare percentage varies from one band to another, ranging between 1.8 and 22.7 per cent
• You can download an app or send an SMS to have a taxi sent to your door
• A government website asks commuters to lodge complaints with the private taxi operator first and, if not satisfied, with
the public carriage office. The website displays contact numbers and an email ID for complaints
• Drivers can’t refuse any hiring up
to 12 miles (19.3km) or a drive of
• Private operator London Black
Taxis gives every complainant an acknowledgement, promising action within six weeks
• Action against driver, if any, can vary in severity from a warning to revoking the driver’s licence (which comes after a rigorous “knowledge test” in London)
• Decisions are based on the driver’s service history and the seriousness of the complaint
• Complaints vary from refusal to misbehaviour by the driver. Others may relate to overcharging, use of a longer route or the car’s condition
|A newer version of the New York City cab
NEW YORK CITY
• Night surcharge of 50 cents (around Rs 30 at Tuesday’s exchange rate)
• Peak-hour weekday surharge of $1 (around Rs 61 at Tuesday’s exchange rate) between Monday and Friday
• Centralised number to call taxi
• Overcharging, unjustified refusal and even seeking the destination before the passenger is seated are offences, along with refusing to assist or charging to help disabled passengers. First violation carries a fine of $350-500. Second violation within two years attracts a $700-1,000 fine and a possible suspension of licence for up to 30 days. Third violation within 36 months invites revocation of licence
|An old Fiat car used as a Mumbai taxi
• Mumbai is the only Indian metropolis to have
a taxi fleet larger than Calcutta’s, some of them
of 80s vintage
• Taxi refusal and overcharging are common, though not as rampant as in Calcutta
• The general impression is that Mumbai police are less lenient with errant taxi drivers than their Calcutta counterparts