OCTOBER 28, 2023
Mumbai’s iconic ‘Premier Padmini’, fondly known as ‘Kaali-Peeli’ taxis among the locals, is all set to be taken off the roads from October 30 after six decades of service, due to the age limit for cabs in the city being 20 years. The taxis which upheld the imagery of Mumbai for decades were more than just a mode of transport and was attached to every aspect of the city.
An official from the transport department was quoted as saying by news agency PTI that the last Premier Padmini was registered as a black-and-yellow taxi on October 29, 2003, at the Tardeo RTO, which has jurisdiction over the city of Mumbai. These black-and-yellow taxis bid adieu to the city streets making way for newer models and app-based cab services.
A resident of Prabhadevi, Abdul Kareem Karsekar, who owns the last registered Premier Padmini taxi of Mumbai, bearing registration number MH-01-JA-2556, told PTI, “Yeh Mumbai ki shaan hai aur hamari jaan hai” (it is the pride of Mumbai and life of mine).
This move comes days after the last iconic double-decker buses of public transporter Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking was taken out of service due to the end of their 15-year codal life. Mumbaikars have been left heavy-hearted, following the retirement of two historic public carriers in a matter of weeks. Some people have even demanded to preserve at least one Premier Padmini on the road or in a museum.
The Mumbai Taximen’s Union, one of the biggest taxi driver unions in the city, had petitioned the government few years ago to preserve at least one kaali-peeli, however their efforts did not bring any success. A resident of Parel and art lover Pradeep Palav told PTI that nowadays Premier Padmini taxis can only be seen in murals on walls in Mumbai. “Though it has slowly vanished, it has conquered a place in people’s imagination and hearts”, he added.
In a conversation with the news agency, general secretary of the Mumbai Taximens Union, AL Quadros, recalled that the Premier Padmini’s journey as a taxi started in 1964 with the model ‘Fiat-1100 Delight’, a powerful 1200-cc car with a steering-mounted gear shifter. He said that it was small compared to big taxis like the Plymouth, Landmaster, Dodge, and Fiat 1100, often called by locals as ‘dukkar Fiat’.
In the 1970s, the model was rebranded as Premier President and subsequently as Premier Padmini, after the legendary Indian queen Padmini. “After this, the car manufactured by Premier Automobile Limit (PAL) never went through a name change until its production stopped in 2001”, Quadros added.
Some 100-125 Premier Padmini taxis remained unregistered due to lack of availability of spare parts or other reasons, for a long time after production ceased.
The union leader who is currently in his 80s told news agency PTI that Premier Padmini’s number was at its peak in the ’90s, however a big chunk of them went off the roads after the Maharashtra government set a 25-year age limit for cabs in 2008. In 2013, the government brought it down to 20 years. Due to their smaller size, reliable engines, easy maintenance, and comfortable interiors, Premier Padminis were popular among cabbies.
The iconinc ‘Kaali Peelis’ also became a part of Mumbai’s cultural heritage as they were seen in a number of Bollywood movies, including ‘Taxi No. 9211’, Khaali-Peeli’, and ‘Aa Ab Laut Chale’.
No More Double-decker Buses on Mumbai Streets
In the first week of October, the iconic open-deck double-decker buses, which graced the city’s streets for more than eight decades, made their final journey down Mumbai’s bustling streets.
The BEST administration stopped inducting double-decker buses after 2008, due to its high operating cost. Since February this year, the BEST started replacing them with leased battery-run red and black double-decker buses. Till now, about 25 such buses have been introduced.
These buses were not only a means of transport but also served as an attraction for tourists since the 1990s.
The iconic red double-decker buses made their debut on Mumbai’s streets in 1937, becoming synonymous with the city’s spirit and even finding a place in Bollywood songs set in Mumbai. At the peak of their glory in the early 1990s, BEST boasted a fleet of around 900 double-decker buses. Sadly, their numbers dwindled after the mid-’90s, primarily due to the high operating costs.
Courtesy: News18 / PTI