Even as 15-year-old diesel taxis have been phased out in Kolkata and supply of new Ambassador cars as replacement tardy, the West Bengal government has refused to allow Maruti Omnis as cabs on grounds of safety, a claim disputed by the car maker.

“Safety standards of these vehicles are not satisfactory and as such Omni vans have not been allowed to be used as metered taxis in Kolkata,” Transport Minister Ranjit Kundu told PTI.

“Accidents in these vehicles can cause serious injury and even fatalities,” the Minister claimed.

Disputing this, the Maruti authorities asserted that Maruti Omnis were much more reliable and have better control then many other vans and were being used as cabs in Delhi and Mumbai.

Regional Sales Manager (East) of Maruti India Limited J Dhindsa, said “We have shown in our presentation that the accident rate is much lower in case of Omni vans.

“We have made several presentations before transport department officials to show that our vehicle is much more manoeuvrable even after a few years of service.”

The transport department had earlier allowed only Ambassador cars manufactured by Hindustan Motors as taxis, but just a few days ago permitted use of Tata Indigo and Maruti Wagon-R as cabs.

Mr. Dhindsa said, “We had asked to be allowed to sell only 1,000 of the 5,000 taxis that are to be replaced due to the Calcutta High Court ordered ban on 15-year old diesel vehicles.”

He claimed that an opportunity was not given to Maruti though the LPG-fuelled vehicles had almost zero emission level.

“The LPG-fuelled vans cost much less than the other cars and also cost per kilometre to run these vehicles is one-third of diesel vehicles,” Mr. Dhindsa said.

About Wagon-R from the Maruti stable being allowed to operate as taxis, he said, “Wagon-R is a family car and was never meant to be a taxi. I don’t know whose idea it was to allow these to be used as cabs here.”

He said that Maruti had not moved the transport department for allowing Wagon-R to be used as taxis.

The transport minister admitted that response for the Indigo and Wagon-R was not good among taxi operators.

President of the Joint Action Committee of Taxi Operators Unions, Bimal Guha, said that only three Indigo taxis have hit the roads, while no operator has applied for the Wagon-R.