Black-and-yellow taxi strike: Mumbaikars turn to trains, buses, radio cabs and car-pooling

With over 10,000 black-and-yellow taxis off the roads yesterday, commuters pulled through with the help of public transport, car-pooling initiatives on social media and app-based cab services - the very thing the taxi union was protesting against

As over 10,000 black-and-yellow taxi drivers went on strike yesterday, citizens turned to local trains, BEST buses, car-pooling, and even app-based cab services — the very thing the taxi drivers were protesting against.

With nothing much to do, cab drivers decided to try their hand at playing cards while passengers were marooned at the international terminal yesterday. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
With nothing much to do, cab drivers decided to try their hand at playing cards while passengers were marooned at the international terminal yesterday. Pic/Datta Kumbhar

The Nitesh Rane-led Swabhiman Taxi-Rickshaw Union had called for an indefinite strike until private cab aggregators such as Uber, Ola and Taxi For Sure are banned completely. The union cabs stayed off roads all day yesterday, which caused great inconvenience to commuters, especially office-goers, students and patients on their way to hospitals.

Commuters travelling into the city from the suburbs were hard hit by the flash strike called by the taxi union led by Swabhimaan Sanghatana yesterday. Pic/Sameer Markande
Commuters travelling into the city from the suburbs were hard hit by the flash strike called by the taxi union led by Swabhimaan Sanghatana yesterday. Pic/Sameer Markande

Pulling through
Ironically, while the strike remained on many passengers opted to take cabs from Uber, Ola and similar services, which even provided discounted rates for the day. Social media was flooded with posts from citizens offering to car-pool with others going on the same routes.

Senior citizens were left stranded at the international airport as taxis went on a flash strike yesterday. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
Senior citizens were left stranded at the international airport as taxis went on a flash strike yesterday. Pic/Datta Kumbhar

Many people kept updating their timings, routes and number of available seats, so that others could also join in. The BEST authorities pushed extra buses into service and switched routes as well, to ensure smoother commutes for citizens.

“Due to the taxi strike, BEST operated 7 extra buses, while 45 buses switched routes,” said HK Gophne, public relations officer for the Undertaking. While many patients had to take buses or hunt for private vehicles to get to hospitals, for others there was some relief, as ambulances belonging to the 108 helpline were sent to ferry them and their families from one hospital to another.

‘Strike will go on’
Alleging that cabs from app-based services were plying illegally and were also eating into their livelihoods, the taxi union’s leader, KK Tiwari said the strike would continue until the authorities gave into their demands and banned those private services.

While some of the leaders of other taxi unions said the strike was nothing but a political stunt, Tiwari was adamant that the drivers would not get back on the roads until they had a written assurance of their demand being met. “We dedicate our lives to passengers; I’ll request them to not mind us for a couple of days.

This has to be done to save the lives of thousands of taxi drivers and their families, who are starving. We will not accept any verbal assurance. Until we get a written assurance on our demands, the strike will go on,” he added. Meanwhile, Transport Minister Diwakar Raote met Transport Commissioner Sonia Sethi at Mantralaya to discuss the strike.

Cabs now plying to airport
While the strike is still on in the rest of the city, airport officials said that taxis resumed services to the airport around 6 pm last evening. At about 7.30 am, Cool Cab, Easy Cab and black-and-yellow taxis had stopped their services at the domestic and international terminals.

The airport operators at the international terminal allowed the entry of auto rickshaws till the level-1 drop zone. At the domestic terminal, authorities had arranged for bus services to drop passengers till Vile Parle and Andheri stations.

Commuter speak

Nikhil Palkhale, (27)
I travel to work at Poonam Chambers, Worli from Kalachowki and it takes around 30 minutes by cab. However, on Tuesday, as cabs went off the road I had to change two buses, as a result of which it took me more than an hour to reach.

Komal Ramani (28)
I had landed from Ahmedabad on Tuesday and wanted to reach Linking Road in Bandra. However, there was not a single taxi at the airport. When I finally managed to get one, the driver said he would charge R1,500 for the distance, which usually costs not more than R100 in peak hours. I had no option but to get down from the cab.

Saiesh Chodankar (23)
As per my routine I reached Dadar station in the morning, but found no taxis on the roads. I found it next to impossible to get a taxi outside the station and as my mobile Internet was not working, I could not even book any app-based cab services and instead had to travel in crowded buses.

Himani Makadia (29)
I had a doctor’s appointment in Dadar and hence wanted to take a cab from my place in Kandivli, but could not find any on the road. Finally I had to rely on local train service, which was very hectic in the morning peak hour.

- Inputs by Neha Tripathi

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