How colour code for app based taxis in Maharashtra was given a communal spin

What do you get when an organisation, some in the media, and a political party unite? A heady mix of half-truths and whole lies, which lead to a “surge” in emotions, based completely on un”fare” arguments.

It starts with a report in the tabloid Mid-Day, which screams:

Mumbai: Uber, Ola cabbies don’t want their vehicles painted saffron 

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Drivers and owners of Uber and Ola taxis have written to the Shiv Sena chief expressing their displeasure over the transport minister’s decision to get their vehicles painted saffron

Shiv Sena, “saffronisation”, sounds believable. The report further says (emphasis added):

The drivers and owners of Uber and Ola taxis are angry with Cabinet Minister of Transport Diwakar Raote’s out of the blue decision to paint their vehicles bhagwa (saffron), or what the government has coined, daffodil yellow. They have questioned Shiv Sena chief Uddhav about this. In a four-page letter sent to Thackeray on April 6, they have raised their concerns and have threatened to boycott the Sena. The letter sent by Maharashtra Tourist Permit Sanghatana, states how the new Maharashtra City Taxi Rules, 2017, have made life miserable for the drivers operating taxis for app-based operators Uber and Ola………One of the important points highlighted in this letter was the decision to choose ‘bhagwa’ colour for all cabs operating as taxis for Uber and Ola. “Here all religions are equal. Then why has the government selected bhagwa colour, we want to know from minister Raote,” said Praful Shinde, a member of this sanghatana.

Jumping on this, discarded Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha tried to create a storm on Twitter:


So is this true? As always, let’s go to the source of the information and not any other media report.

The order to “saffronize” has to come from the recently passed Maharashtra City Taxi Rules, 2017. A full copy of the notification can be accessed here (pdf link). Skipping to the relevant part, the rules do mandate a colour code for app based taxis:

So this is what “saffronization” looks like: A White and Yellow coloured cab.

The rules even prescribe the code of the shade, and the shade card on a paints site shows that “saffron yellow” is a distinct shade from “daffodil yellow”. So if the attempt was to “saffronize” app based taxis, then the state transport minister has failed woefully on 2 counts: Firstly, only a portion of the car is to be painted “bhagwa” and worse, the colour may not even be the actual “bhagwa” or “saffron”.

Some might argue that these are technicalities and the colour yellow in any variant is close enough to saffron, and thus, the Government’s move to choose yellow is clearly based on “communal” principles. Those people then would have to agree that taxis the world over have been “saffronized”. Yellow cabs are found the world over, right from USA (pre-Trump era) to London (pre-Brexit era).

And there is a scientific reason for taxis to be yellow in colour: John Hertz, founder of the Hertz Rent-a-Car System, read a University of Chicago study that suggested the colour yellow with a bit of red mixed in was the colour most visible from a distance, and so he proceeded to paint all his taxis the colour that would eventually come to be known as ‘taxi yellow’. This may be a grand conspiracy but “yellow with a bit of red mixed in” is almost saffron!

To be fair to Mid-Day, they have quoted a member of the Maharashtra Tourist Permit Sanghatana who has given a communal spin to the colour code for app-based taxis. Provided this quote is genuine, this may be an elaborate plan by the Sanghatana to scuttle the Taxi Rules, which have far more stricter rules for app based taxis, which for the time being have no regulations to bind to. The “communal” bogey can help them get support from “sympathetic” media houses and also the opposition, which is desperate to be “secular”.


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