The iconic 'Kaali Peeli' Padmini taxis, which reflected a link with Mumbai's past and were also portrayed in several Bollywood movies, will become a part of history as they will not be seen on the roads after June 2020. The Padmini cabs remind of old memories related and give a sense of nostalgia. This step will certainly mark the end of an era.
These cabs have a strong connect with Mumbaikars' heart as these were the lifelines of the city. Fondly known as "kaali peeli" or "Fiat", these cabs display the originality of old Mumbai. However, in the midst of various cab services and vehicle options available in India now, the number of Premier Padmini's has gone down drastically over the years and so it's production.
M L Quadros, leader of Mumbai Taximens Union said, "The Padminis have dominated the streets since the 1960s. But now there are hardly 50 to 60 cabs on the streets of Mumbai. One of the important reasons for phasing out of these taxis is the lack of spare parts, tyres and repairing tools. The manufacturer has shut down after producing the last batch sometime in the late 1990s."
Referring to the lifecycle of the Padmini he said that since the RTO rules stated that the maximum life of a taxi can be 20 years, there is no chance of an extension for these cabs. "In July 2005 when there were severe floods in Mumbai, modern-day cars had problems but Padmini taxis were repaired within 24 hours and they were back on the streets to serve Mumbaikars. Not to talks of mechanics, the cabbie himself repaired the cab," he added. Quadros also requested the state government to put the Padmini in a museum.
The production of these taxis was stopped in the year 2000, and there are less than 50 of them remaining in the city. They'll stop plying on the Mumbai roads altogether by June 2020. The car debuted as Fiat 1100 Delight in 1964. In 1965, its name was changed to Premier President, and in 1974 it became the Premier Padmini — named after the legendary Indian queen. For the next 30 years, it dominated the roads. These black-and-yellow cabs have featured in countless Bollywood movies. Around 65,000 Padminis plied Mumbai at their peak in the mid-1990s but they gradually made their way out in favour of newer, more environmentally-friendly vehicles.
The first Padmini's rolled off production lines at the Premier Automobiles Limited factory in Mumbai, in 1964, under a licensing agreement with the famous Italian car manufacturer Fiat. Mumbai authorities in the 1960s opted for the Padmini over the bulkier Hindustan Motors Ambassador - the taxi of choice in Delhi and Kolkata, which was the only other car widely available in India at the time -- and their numbers increased exponentially during the ‘70s and ‘80s.
Many netizens were nostalgic as well as shocked when they read about the news. Commenting on Amul's tweet, one user commented, "heartwarming", while the other seemed shocked and wrote, "Whaaa? No more kaali peelis now?!" and the third commented that nothing can replace these taxis.
(with ANI inputs)