Four years after the horse-drawn carriages were banned due to animal cruelty, the battery-operated version will be seen in south Mumbai.
The iconic Victoria carriages will soon be back in the city, albeit without the horses.Almost four years after they were banned, the state’s transport department has cleared a proposal to allow battery-operated Victoria carriages to run on the city’s top tourist routes in South Mumbai where the traditional Victoria horse carriages ran for close to a century. The new carriages will be rolled out later this month once the election code of conduct is lifted.
In the first phase, 40 such Victoria carriages will be run in routes near the Gateway of India, Marine Drive, Nariman Point and Girgaum Chowpatty, said officials. The transport department will try the routes for six months before giving a go ahead to more routes. The traffic police will also be consulted on the routes.
The ban on horse-drawn carriages had hit many drivers hard, with many losing their only source of livelihood. The transport department has said that it will give out the licences to run these e-carriages to the same drivers who had lost their livelihood.
“We have cleared the proposal and sent it to the state government for final approval,” said a senior transport department official. “We will train the drivers of the old Victoria horse carriages. By giving licences to the old carriage riders, we will also be able to rehabilitate them.” The fare for the rides is yet to be fixed.
It was in June 2015 that the Bombay High Court directed the authorities to put a complete stop to carriages driven by horses as they were found to “violate the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act”.
In the same order, the state had been directed to frame a comprehensive policy to rehabilitate the carriage owners and drivers who would be affected by the ban. The direction was given in a Public Interest Litigation filed by a city-based NGO ‘Animals and Birds Charitable Trust’, alleging cruelty to horses.
The ban on horse-drawn carriages imposed nearly four years ago had hit many drivers hard
The state had formed a committee headed by finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, which proposed the rehabilitation package. Ninety-one owners and 130 drivers of the Victorias were to be given a compensation of Rs 3 lakh or Rs 1lakh and a hawker licence in south Mumbai. “But many of them could not get rehabilitated in the real sense. So we will give them the licence to operate the new Victoria carriages,” the official said.
The battery-operated carriages will run at a maximum speed of 20 km per hour and are ideal for joyrides in tourist spots. “They are environment friendly and also take you back to the city’s old heritage. We will roll out the carriages once the state government gives us the go-ahead,” said Ketan Kadam, founder CEO of Ubo Ridez, which manufactures the electric carriages.
“Our Victorias will be just like the old carriages. Except the horse, everything else will be the same. They will also be GPS-enabled and fitted with speakers that will give information about the city’s history when the Victorias pass near an iconic landmark like the Gateway of India or Flora Fountain,” Kadam added.
Trial runs have been conducted at the Byculla Zoo premises and Sanjay Gandhi National Park.
The decorated and lit-up carriages, with the rhythmic trots of the horses, had been a familiar sight on the roads of south Mumbai since colonial times. In the decades after that, they attained the status of being vintage and attracted tourists in hordes.
According to local historians, the horse driven carriages were used as a primary mode of transport in the 19th century before cars and trams. Later, the carriages transformed from a mode of travel to a symbol of leisure. Bollywood too has immortalised the horse carriage in films such as CID (1956) and Victoria No 203 (1972).
In the first phase, 40 such Victoria carriages will be run on routes near the Gateway, Marine Drive, Nariman Point and Girgaum Chowpatty