Shelters of the rickshaw kind

Shelters of the rickshaw kind

Students of St Stephen’s College, under the guidance of experts, have designed a modified cycle rickshaw with a mosquito net, six-feet long bed, a solar panel for light, electric fan and mobile charging port, to ease the hard lives of rickshaw-pullers.

As part of DU’s Innovation Project, seven students of Physics Department and five students of History department were working on the lives of homeless in Delhi along with the Mother NGO, which works for the same cause too.

It all began with History students doing a demographic survey of the homeless in the City and soon as it emerged in the survey that 30 percent homeless in the City are rickshaw-pullers, the census developed on modifying good old rickshaws, as many of them end spending nights on their vehicles for a variety of reasons. 

The project is an initiative by Delhi University to encourage research at undergraduate level and attempts to work out a sustainable model for the improvement of living conditions in shelters for the homeless. 

Smriti Vaid, project manager at Mother, says, “Instead of making more night shelters for them, why not do something for these rickshaw-pullers who after a tiring day are compelled to sleep on the rickshaws? It is just the same model of rickshaw that we see on road. We have added some simple features which will ensure a good sleep for them.
“In the last six months, students involved visited a number of night shelters and conducted surveys so that their research is grounded in actual experience and a comprehension of the problems the residents face,” she adds.

While students of both departments worked on the design of the rickshaw, they also interacted with rickshaw-pullers for the project. The Physics students worked on the technical aspects of the design such as rickshaw’s weight, size of solar panels on the rickshaw’s roof, LED lights and a power socket.

They also contributed in developing micro-fiance scheme to give the ownership of the these rickshaws to the rickshaw pullers. As of now, only two rickshaws of the new design have been produced but plans are to roll out about 100 of them soon with a further modifications.

Angad Yuvraj, a third-year Physics student, says, “Basically, our project was related to improving lives of the homeless. That is how this idea came up. The hardest part was to accommodate a bed in the rickshaw, while managing the solar panels and other features was easier.”

Arushi Massey from the History department says, “We took inspiration from sofa-cum-bed and made the design. So the seat gets opened till the rickshaw’s handle and turns into a bed. There is an environment-friendly magazine rack which keeps the water cool. Rest of the features like light, USB port and FM are for the riders.”

“The modified rickshaw will cost around 15,000, almost double of what the present model costs. But with an EMI scheme, hopefully they will be able to own it,” she says.

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