MLA Seetharam has sought the help of various welfare corporations
Each autorickshaw is priced at around Rs. 1.10 lakhThe MLA contributes substantially towards margin money
Bangalore: There is an army of autorickshaw drivers who owe it to M.R. Seetharam, Congress MLA from Malleswaram. So much so they have made him the chief patron of the union.
Using his political clout, he has tapped various welfare corporations run by the Government to provide nearly 1,200 autorickshaws to as many youth, including women. It is another matter that the beneficiaries form a comfortable vote bank, amply demonstrated in the Legislative Assembly elections in 2004. An autorickshaw is priced at around Rs. 1.10 lakh. Mr. Seetharam contributes substantially towards the margin money of Rs. 25,000 even as he ensures that the beneficiary contributes Rs. 5,000, showing his commitment to the vehicle. On an average, Mr. Seethram provides 150 autorickshaws every year.
The 50-year-old Mr. Seetharam told The Hindu that he hit upon the idea during the run-up to the 1999 elections. "Many young men of Malleswaram slums did not have jobs and were turning to criminal activities," he said.
He now has a large team of assistants who identify the youth after studying their family background. On selection, they are imparted training in driving and helped with the formalities, including loans. The whole exercise takes a few months. Sudha (27) of Yeshwanthpur is one among the women beneficiaries who purchased an autorickshaw four years ago. She drives the vehicle herself and earns a profit of Rs. 350 per day. She not only contributes to the family kitty but also is saving up for her marriage. Of the eight women beneficiaries, three stopped driving after they got married. But they are now earning Rs. 150 a day by hiring a driver. Mr. Seetharam said the government corporations that have lent the money have no complaints against the drivers. As much as 95 per cent of the drivers have never defaulted on the loans. In fact, several of them have got themselves a second autorickshaw.