Mumbai, October 12: The premier Padmini taxis, popularly known as "Kaali Peeli" in Mumbai, will go off roads from June 2020. The production of Padmini taxis, which reflect the originality of old Mumbai, had stopped in 2000. With the arrival of new cab services and other vehicle options, there are fewer than 50 Padmini taxis plying in Mumbai today. These "Kaali Peeli" taxis too will become a part of history soon.
Debuted as Fiat 1100 Delight in 1964, the iconic Indo-Italian model virtually ruled the roads for three decades. The name Fiat 1100 Delight was changed to Premier President in 1965, and in 1974 it was rechristened as the Premier Padmini —named after the legendary Indian queen. Now a rare sight, Padmini taxis would give the first tour of Mumbai to its visitors. Mumbaikars still feel nostalgic while taking a ride in "Kaali Peeli".
"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," M L Quadros, leader of Mumbai Taximens Union told ANI. He would request the state government to put the Padmini taxis in a museum.
"It's an iconic car but the present generation wants modern cars. These Padmini taxis are very expensive to maintain now," Quadros said pointing out 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. He recalled how Padmini taxis were back on roads within 24 hours after repairs during the July 2005 floods in Mumbai, while other cabs had problems.
"There are old customers who prefer this cab due to memories related to it and due to nostalgia. It will certainly mark the end of an era," said a driver who has been driving Padmini taxi from the past 30 years.