Mumbai's Kaali Peeli taxis to ply for one last time on 30 October

These taxis were first introduced as the Fiat 1100 Delight, then as the Premiere President, and finally as the Padmini in 1974.

By Amit Vijay M calendar 29 Oct 2023 Views icon5079 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Mumbai's Kaali Peeli taxis to ply for one last time on 30 October

The iconic Indo-Italian Premier Padmini Kaali Peeli taxis, which have been an integral part of Mumbai, will see their final run on the streets of India's financial capital on October 30, senior transport officials informed Autocar Professional. 

This is a double blow to the city's rich cultural heritage, as the iconic double-decker buses that served the city for 15 years have recently stopped plying.

A permanent fixture on Indian roads, it was popularised by Bollywood movies such as Taxi Driver, Sadhu aur Shaitan, Khud-Daar, and Taxi No. 9211 to name a few. Mumbai had over 55,000 taxis at its peak in the 1990s, almost all of which were Fiats manufactured by Premier Automobiles.  

The ubiquitous black and yellow taxis became a symbol of the city, and have been compared favourably to New York's bright orange cabs and London's painted black taxis.

These taxis were first introduced as the Fiat 1100 Delight, then as the Premiere President, and finally as the Padmini in 1974.

After Premier Automobiles' license with Fiat expired in 1972, the Premier President rebadged the car later that year.

The Walchand Hirachand family, who owned Premier Automobiles Ltd., lowered the prices for the cab drivers, which became a main source of livelihood for many who came to Mumbai in search of jobs.

As petrol prices began to rise towards the end of the 1990s, Premier Automobiles Limited (PAL) released the first diesel Padmini cabs, which served as people carriers until the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the 2020 era, despite the fact that PAL ceased manufacturing in 2001.

The Government of Maharashtra has been petitioned by AL Quadros, President of Mumbai Taximen's Union, to preserve a few Kaali Peelis, but Quadros says that "It is highly unlikely the government is likely to accept their demands."

"The disappearance of these taxis from Mumbai's streets threatens to erode a significant aspect of the city's character and identity," said Karan Mittal, partner at mobility start-up fund EV2 Ventures who recalled that "you never felt cramped in these taxis."

The Premier Padmini, often associated with  once a common sight on the streets of Mumbai, has only a few numbers that ply today. 

While the taxis will be gone soon, they will be remembered fondly as an important part of Mumbai's history.

 

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