The public vehicles department (PVD) has cancelled the permits of 40 taxis for refusing passengers, a malaise that increased vigilance and a heavier fine than before have failed to cure.
The decision was taken at a review meeting on Tuesday after it emerged that the owners of these blacklisted taxis hadn’t responded to repeated summons to appear at hearings fixed by the PVD.
Section 120 of the West Bengal Motor Vehicles Rules empowers the transport authority to cancel taxi permits for various violations. The taxis in question had been reported for refusing passengers between April and June.
According to the motor vehicles rules, taxi permits are to be issued on condition that the drivers wouldn’t refuse passengers. Section 120 states that no taxi can refuse passengers, charge more than the metered fare or ply as a shuttle car.
Drivers are also required to ferry passengers through the shortest possible routes.
“These owners had been sent summons thrice, asking them to appear for hearings on complaints of refusal against them. The last reminder was to respond within a fortnight or face penal action. When they didn’t do so, we decided to cancel their permits,” C. Murugan, director of the PVD, told Metro.
None of these taxis can legally ply without their permits being restored. Sources in the PVD said a list containing the registration numbers of the vehicles would be sent to the police headquarters so that they could be tracked.
“If a taxi owner wants to apply for a fresh permit, he or she would need to submit an application and wait for the decision of the Regional Transport Authority board,” a PVD official said. “Once a taxi permit is cancelled, it could be difficult to get one again.”
If the board accepts an application, it doesn’t mean the taxi owner is off the hook. Besides paying an application fee of Rs 540, the owner would need to deposit Rs 2,500 as permit fee for a period of five years along with a security deposit of Rs 1,000. A penalty of Rs 5,000 for refusing passengers will add to the pinch on the pocket, if not chasten the repeat offender.
“Taxi drivers found guilty of refusing passengers are being fined Rs 3,000 for each offence. For taxi owners who don’t bother attending hearings despite repeated reminders, the fine amount would be the maximum,” an official said.
Metro has been campaigning against taxi refusal for months, highlighting the plight of commuters who struggle to get a taxi at any time of the day.
On December 19, coinciding with the inaugural run of the no-refusal taxi fleet, this newspaper had conducted a road test on the old yellow taxis.
As many as 10 out of the 11 yellow taxis surveyed failed the no-refusal test that day, though that didn’t surprise as much as the result of a repeat test on the no-refusal fleet on February 24 did.
On that occasion, six out of the 12 no-refusal taxis surveyed either refused or demanded more than the metered fare to various destinations.
“I hope a taxi driver will henceforth think twice before refusing a passenger,” said homemaker Manisha Kejriwal, a resident of Girish Park, of the crackdown by the PVD.