The e-rickshaws provide an alternative for both the harried commuters and vehicle operators though some genuine problems need to be addressed
The crutches next to him, belie the fact that he helps the common people by ferrying them from Rajpath Road to India Gate everyday. He is Rajesh who has been driving an e-rickshaw from the past one year. “Because of my disability, I was unable to earn a living. Paying Rs.400 per day as rent for this rickshaw leaves me with a decent amount of money and has helped me create my identity.”
Walking through the streets of Delhi, while looking at the endless queues of e-rickshaws, one wonders about the plight of these drivers. Thousands of such stories abound in the Capital. Most of these drivers are illiterate and do not have a driving license. They are rebuked by the traffic policemen for being a menace on the roads. With no provision under the Delhi Motor Vehicles Act, the drivers face a lot of problems. These rickshaws are not registered and neither do they have an identification number. “If the Government registers our vehicles, provides us with number plates and route number, the problem concerning traffic will be solved. It’ll become easy for the traffic police to take action and at the same time, we’ll also get a legal identity,” says an e-rickshaw driver.
Besides being eco-friendly, these rickshaws have provided a means of employment for many. “Before driving an e-rickshaw, I was a laundryman.After meeting with an accident, I had to face the ordeals of finding a new job for a year. Driving an e-rickshaw helped me to earn a living when nothing was in my favour. I can now provide education to my daughters,” says Ramesh Kumar, an e-rickshaw driver hailing from Bihar.
According to the traffic officials, these rickshaws create a lot of problem as they do not have any legal identity. No challan can be issued to them for violating the traffic rules. The officials also disapprove of the idea of these rickshaws running in Delhi. However, Azharuddin, a driver, asserts that the problem of traffic has been prevailing in Delhi since a long time. He further adds, “These rickshaws run at a low speed, minimising the chances of accidents. Also, we request for legal proof and recognition for filing an FIR and insurance claims .”
Unless an amendment to the Motor Vehicles Act is legislated, the sufferings of the rickshaw drivers can’t be fixed. “For purchasing an e-rickshaw, I spent Rs.55,000, which is a huge investment. Also the four batteries of 12 V each are to be replaced after every six months which makes this an expensive affair. The Government can frame policies to provide this vehicle at a subsidised rate. We request not to ban the e-rickshaws which is our only source of livelihood,” says a 12th Class pass driver who could not find another job.
These e-rickshaws, comfortable and economical for covering short distances, are also a boon for many eking out a decent living.