Taxis go past the Reserve Bank of India building in Kolkata (Reuters)
For love or for money, you may not get a taxi in Kolkata between 11 am and 4 pm starting Monday. The drivers have decided that it is simply too hot to work in the afternoon and most taxi unions have backed the idea.
"You can see how hot it is. Most of our meter taxis are non-air conditioned. Also, there is no taxi stand or a place where taxi drivers can sit, drink some water or rest for a while. Those who do not want to drive taxis have been allowed to do so from 11 am to 4 pm. Those who want to ply are free to do so," said Bimal Guha, chief of the Bengal Taxi Union.
The decision has been taken after two taxi drivers died last week from suspected heat stroke.
"Temperatures are so high and to add to that, our vehicles have diesel engines which makes conditions unbearable for us. We are humans too. In case of an emergency, we do not say no," said taxi driver Umesh.
Unions said that they will request Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to ask the police to not levy fines on taxis for refusing to work during those five hours. They also want the passengers to pay 15 per cent extra at night to make up for the taxi drivers' losses during the day.
But the commuters are certainly not happy with the decision of the taxi drivers.
"If we have work from 11 pm to 4 pm, how will we do it? What will the people who do not own private vehicles do? We need to go the doctor, get lots of work done. Everyone has to work. What will we do?" said Saroj Manoj, a regular commuter.
But app-based and radio taxis are already giving regular ones competition. The summer holiday by the yellow cabs may prove costly for them in more ways than one.