Tired of pedalling, rickshaw pullers keen to go electric

Many cycle rickshaw pullers in the capital are keen to switch over to battery operated rickshaws for earning their livelihood, but a day after the central government announced a finance scheme for them, they seemed unaware of the facility.

A few migrant cycle rickshaw pullers said they were unlettered and did not even know how to avail the facility of switching over to “costly” e-rickshaws and whom to contact in the civic agencies.

On Tuesday, Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari talked about launching a ‘Deen Dayal e-rickshaw scheme’ under which the driver of the rickshaw can avail loans at an annual interest rate of three per cent.

Ram Prasad, a rickshaw puller living in the capital since 1978 said, “If loans are being given, then I am ready to operate an e-rickshaw”. Asked how will he repay the loan amount, he said “I will save some money each month and pay in instalments”.

While the older population is ready to switch over, it is the younger generation which is doubtful about the decision of making new investment.

“When I was young, the job seemed alright. Now that I have grown old, this job is tiring. I want to switch over to e-rickshaw as it requires less effort and makes more money for me,” said Mohammed Saadit, a cycle rickshaw puller near New Delhi Metro station.

Mopindra Jha, a rickshaw puller in Old Delhi said he doesn’t earn much. Even if he want to switch over, he can’t as he won’t be able to pay back the loan.

Most of the rickshaw pullers in the capital are migrants from neighbouring states. For them making the transition from cycle to e-rickshaws won’t be smooth.

“I live in a small rented room. For me, parking of e-rickshaw would be a major problem as it is more costly and lot of thefts take place in my area”, said a cycle rickshaw puller who parks his rickshaw in an open space.

Some pullers also said that these rickshaws are not useful in areas like Jama Masjid where narrow lanes are heavily crowded with people. The cycle rickshaw requires less maintenance cost as its built is stronger and can carry heavy loads even in narrow lanes.

“In summer season the power outages are already making our lives difficult. Charging these rickshaws would be a challenging job in such a scenario,” said Mohan Chand, a puller residing in Sangam Vihar.

The financial scheme is seen as a good incentive not just for the cycle rickshaw pullers, but also for the manufacturers and importers of these battery rickshaws as they will be registering more demand and an increased base of their potential buyers.

“The interest rate announced by the government is low. This, off course, would lead to more buyers coming in for the battery rickshaws,” said Dinesh, a manufacturer and a dealer in e-rickshaws.

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