Bidding Adieu: A Look At Mumbai’s Iconic Black And Yellow ‘Premiere Padmini’ Taxis As They Get Ready To Go Off Roads

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Taxi Driver Image: Uday Tadphale
Taxi Driver Image: Uday Tadphale
Taxi Driver Image: Uday Tadphale

Public transportation is Mumbai’s spirited lifeline. As Mumbaikars we take pride in our railways, BEST buses, rickshaws and taxis. And when we think of taxis, the immediate image that comes to mind is that of the ubiquitous black and yellow ‘Premier Padmini’ that is integral to our everyday escapades. Can you imagine a day when the roads of Mumbai are devoid of these Padminis? Well, the day is not far as the government is in the process of phasing out these old workhorses and soon none of them shall be visible.

It’s time to take a look at the momentous beginning of these taxis that are integral to the history Mumbai. There was a time when the roads were ruled by the horse-driven Victorias and buggies. Then in 1911, motorized cars came into the picture and changed the entire travel experience. The very first cabs were the ‘Dodge’, ‘Chevrolet’ and ‘Plymouth’ models.

The Fiat 1100. Image by wikimedia.org

It was around the 1950’s that Premier Auto tied up with Fiat to manufacture and the Premier Padmini became Mumbai’s taxi in 1970. In 1973 the vehicles were being built on the Premier Automobiles Limited production lines at Kurla and that is how they were given the name ‘Padmini’. These taxis were based on the design of Fiat’s 1100-series cars from the 1960s. “The Premier Padmini is comparatively a new entrant, around the late 1960s or early 1970s. The earlier cabs were of different models. There are still 17,000 of the Padminis left in Mumbai and they will be phased out over five years,” AL Quadros, president of Mumbai Taximen’s Union, had said in an interview with a publication. However there is not much confirmation on when the taxis were painted black and yellow, but some believe that it happened soon after independence.

Taxi Driver Image: Uday Tadphale
Taxi Driver Image: Uday Tadphale

The Premiere Padmini ruled the fleet of black and yellow taxis for several years. 58,000 Padmini taxis were on the streets till the mid-1990s. Post the liberalization in the nineties, different makes and models of cars started being produced in the country and that is when things began to change. The Premiere Company stopped manufacturing in 2000. Mumbai’s iconic taxis turned 100 in 2011.

The good old Premier Padminis have been rattling on the roads for over 40 years now. In 2008, the court ordered the phasing out of taxis that were older than 25 years. Soon the number of Premiere Padminis started reducing and this year the government has issued a new resolution that reduces the life cycle of the black and yellow Padminis by 5 years. So taxis that are more than 20 years old will be scrapped and the deadline which was earlier 2018 now seems to have become 2013. Come August and the government plans to phase them off the streets of Mumbai completely.

Taxi Driver Image: Uday Tadphale
Taxi Driver Image: Uday Tadphale

Mumbai’s current taxi fleet has about 51,000 vehicles, of which it is estimated that around 8,000 vehicles are over 25 years old. They will be replaced with modern alternatives and a younger fleet. While this move may sound logical, it is also distressing to the cab owners who are worried about their livelihood. The new resolution is no less than a shock for the taxi union. Many of them do not have the resources to afford a modern car to replace the Padmini.

Mumbai Taximen’s Union chief A L Quadros, however, described the new GR as “needless pressure” on taximen, who are anyway struggling to cope with commuters’ preference for newer, more modern taxis. “Why should the government do this when 1600 Premier Padmini taxis were voluntarily scrapped between January and May this year,” he said in another interview.

Nana Patekar in Taxi No 9211. Image by moviesfromindia.in.

Mumbai has an almost romantic association with the black and yellow wheels be it in real or reel life. Bollywood has had many a movies centered around them, ranging from Dev Anand’s 1950s hit ‘Taxi Driver’ to Mahesh Bhatt’s ‘Sadak’ and Nana Patekar’s ‘Taxi No 9211’. As a regular commuter, there are a bitter sweet memories attached with the black and yellow wheels. They may have broken door handles and torn seat covers but some are still very well maintained by their owners. With their departure, a poignant era comes to an end. Bidding adieu may not be that simple.

What are your memories of the Premiere Padmini taxis? Write to us at [email protected] or comment below.

Post By Esha Verma (33 Posts)

Writing is a passion I discovered a little late. But better late than never. When not penning my thoughts, you'll find me sniffing around for good food - trying out every new restaurant in town is a hobby. I swear by Hindi films and when doing nothing of the above you'll find me troubling my pet pooch.

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Esha Verma

Esha Verma
Writing is a passion I discovered a little late. But better late than never. When not penning my thoughts, you'll find me sniffing around for good food - trying out every new restaurant in town is a hobby. I swear by Hindi films and when doing nothing of the above you'll find me troubling my pet pooch.