Fresh lease of life for e-rickshaws

Last Updated 17 June 2014, 14:26 IST

On a muggy evening, what could be a better ride for a short distance from the touristy and cramped streets of Paharganj to Connaught Place thought Anna Perez as she chose to hire an e-rickshaw to breathe some fresh air as she travelled to the city centre. 

“As soon as the driver started his vehicle, he asked me to clasp its rod as he vroomed through the city. Midway, I got down from the vehicle as it almost felt he was bent on flinging me out, taking those sharp turns at that speed.”

 And mind you, that is not a one-off experience. People often complaint about the nuisance these battery-operated vehicles create. 

Following a notification issued by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) on April 24, in which the ministry amended certain rules in the Motor Vehicles Act, all the e-rickshaws in the capital were rendered illegal, and the Transport department launched a drive to impound these vehicles.

 From being hailed as an environmentally-safe alternative to autorickshaws to being thrust on the verge of being phased out, approximately 25,000 e-rickshaws and their two lakh drivers seem to have overcome an impasse as the Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari addressed the e-rickshaw drivers at Ram Lila Maidan on Tuesday declaring support against the e-rickshaw ban in the City. 

As the e-rickshaw drivers congregated at the maidan, hardly any e-rickshaws could be spotted early in the day. In a mood of jubilation, the treasurer of Battery Operated Rickshaw Association, Pawan Kakkar, said, “Not only did the Minister went all out to support our concerns, he even assured that no e-rickshaw will be impounded, with effect from today.

 The Municipal Corporation of Delhi has been vested with the responsibility of providing registration for e-rickshaws. The number of passengers is fixed to four and the e-rickshaw drivers will be getting credit with three per cent interest.” 

Expressing his discontent, Rajendra Soni, general secretary of Delhi Autorickshaw Sangh, said, “The issue of e-rickshaws has been politicised as AAP, which earlier created a vote bank out of auto rickshaw drivers, started protesting for the rights of e-rickshaw drivers. Now, the ruling party has gone ahead to pander to their interests. It is all vote bank politics.”  

“Nobody has shown any interest in alleviating the problems of rickshaw pullers ever. On that, these e-rickshaw drivers overload their vehicles and put the life of their passengers at risk,” he complained.

A Delhi University aspirant, Mehak Sharma, says, “Last week, when e-rickshaws went on strike, it was so hard to negotiate with the rickshawpullers in DU campus as they escalated their rates for even very short distance rides from the station. An e-rickshaw, being a joint ride, usually comes at Rs 10 per ride.

I guess it sustains different options of transport, for these last mile connectivity, so that a passenger is never looted by these drivers.” 

Keeping in view, the impending policy decisions regarding e-rickshaw, former Chief Secretary Omesh Saigal, says, “We need to lay down exact specifications for the motor power and speed for these e-rickshaws and, also make them a part of the Motor Vehicles Act.

 It is important to keep these clean means of transport as part of our infrastructure, but these cannot be operated on the lines of manual rickshaws.” He says, “The idea of phasing them out or impounding them was not feasible as they are a source of livelihood for a sizeable population now. What needs to be fixed is the number of these vehicles, that cannot be kept as an open-ended option.” 

(Published 17 June 2014, 14:26 IST)

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