E-rickshaws a boon or bane?

Commute blues

E-rickshaws a  boon or bane?

The easy availability, pocket-friendly fares (Rs 10 for less than a two kilometre ride) and the convenience of travelling in a battery-operated rickshaw has led to a surge in the population of e-rickshaws in the City. Already, more than a lakh e-rickshaws are plying on the City roads. Even the busiest roads where traffic snarls are a major problem like ITO, these battery operated rickshaws have found a place.

Recently, in a plea filed against e-rickshaws, the Delhi High Court had asked the Delhi Government to apprise it of any policy decisions taken for regulating battery- operated rickshaws which ply without licence or number plates.  According to the plea, rickshaws are operated with four batteries and are designed to ferry only four people, including the driver. But it has been noticed that the drivers carry more than eight people at a time, thus endangering their lives.

“Yes, accommodating more than four people in the rickshaw is a risk factor. But the problem can only be handled when Government puts in place proper rules and regulations for e-rickshaws,” says Delhi Battery Rickshaw Chalak Union convener Anand Sahu, accepting that for a quick buck, drivers are making eight people sit at a time.

Surprisingly, the 250-watt battery operated vehicle is not registered with the authorities. “We have been asking the Government to safeguard the interest of the drivers by including battery-operated rickshaws under the Motor Vehicles Act. But so far, nothing has been done. Therefore, their number has been constantly increasing. Several people who own hundreds of e-rickshaws have rented them out for commercial gains,” he discloses.

Perhaps, those who could not drive/own an autorickshaw or did not want to end up as a mere ‘cycle rickshawwallah’ have now got a chance to earn a decent livelihood.

“Due to unemployment, many people have taken e-rickshaws on rent. But they are exploited by their owners. Since there is no fixed rate, drivers pay atleast Rs 300 to Rs 800 per day,” says Jaswant Singh, the e-rickshaw union pradhan at Delhi University.

Since, these e-rickshaws do not fall under any rules and regulations, there is no way to keep a check on the antecedents of the driver or the vehicle owner.

“If somebody from the Burari area runs his rickshaw in the University area and is involved in an accident, it becomes really difficult to trace him. If proper rules are formulated, licences and number plates are issued then only can things be improved,” says Jaswant.

Ask him why the Government is not seriously considering the issue, he says, “ E-rickshaw association is backed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and our Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung is a Congressman, so  he won’t listen to our demands of placing us under the Motor Vehicles Act. They are waiting for the General Election to happen.  After that they might try to put a ban on the use of this vehicle.”

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