Aam Aadmi Party on Tuesday threatened to launch a protest if the Centre failed to deliver on its assurance of coming out with a final notification on the plying of e-rickshaws in the Capital.
This course of action was announced by AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal, who met Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari at Transport Bhawan to discuss the issue of e-rickshaws which is pending both in courts and in government files. As of now, these battery operated three wheelers are off road following a ban imposed by the Delhi High Court which cited lack of proper regulations.
Mr. Gadkari told the AAP delegation that the draft notification was available on the Ministry's website and the final notification would come in another 10 days. “If they don't (come out with a notification), we will launch an agitation,” said AAP leader Sanjay Singh who was part of the delegation.
During his meeting with the Union Minister, Mr. Kejriwal demanded that swift action be taken to remove the hurdles which have affected the livelihood of nearly 2 lakh families.
Coming out after the brief meeting at Transport Bhawan, the AAP leader said he reminded the Minister of his earlier promise to remove all legal hassles which prevented the e-rickshaws from plying on the city roads. Addressing a rally of e-rickshaws drivers at a rally held at Ramlila Maidan on June 17, the then newly sworn in Mr. Gadkari had made several promises and it also included the launch of Deen Dayal e-rickshaw scheme offering loans at lower interest rates.
Questioning the delay in framing rules despite the announcement, the former Delhi Chief Minister said that the fate of the e-rickshaw drivers has been in a limbo since February when the Congress was in power and the BJP regime hasn't done much to address the issue either.
“If there is a political will, it does not take this long to form a policy. Ideally the Congress should have done it then itself but they did not and now we see that the new government at the Centre is suffering from the same policy paralysis that had stung the previous UPA Government. It seems that all assurances given by Mr. Gadkari in the rally were lies,” said Mr. Kejriwal.
AAP leaders also told the Minister that parts from e-rickshaws which were impounded and parked at police stations have been stolen. Mr. Gadkari made a call to the Delhi Police Commissioner and spoke to him on this issue. “The Minister told us that any driver can approach a lower court and get an order to get them released,” said Mr. Kejriwal.
Delhi unit of BJP also bats for the cause
Rallying behind e-rickshaw drivers in Delhi, a delegation from the State unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party met Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari on Tuesday asking him to allow the vehicles to ply on the city roads.
“We urged Mr. Gadkari to make sure the e-rickshaws start plying in Delhi after the 10-day period is over,” said Delhi BJP chief Satish Upadhyay who led the delegation. Earlier this week, Mr. Gadkari had said that his Ministry had put up a draft notification concerning the plying of e-rickshaws on its website and was seeking public opinion on it within the next 10 days.
The Delhi BJP delegation maintained that it was a matter of survival for hundreds of individuals and families associated with this profession. A statement from the party also said that Mr. Gadkari informed the delegation that a new policy has been compiled by the Ministry which will be published in the next couple of days.
Mr. Upadhyay said: “The Central Government has been making an effort to bring e-rickshaws back on the road but several technical aspects were holding it back. Now taking into consideration the court directives, suggestions of specialists regarding public safety, the government has tried to resolve the matter.”
He also added that Mr. Gadkari had informed the delegation that the Ministry had advised the Lieutenant-Governor of Delhi to ensure that the concerned departments organise safety training and counselling sessions for e-rickshaw drivers in the city as the issue of rash driving was also an ongoing matter in court.
The Delhi High Court last week said the ban on plying of e-rickshaws in Delhi would continue till the law is amended to bring the vehicle under the ambit of the Motor Vehicles Act, adding that "what is prohibited by law is not permitted in action". - Sowmiya Ashok