For close to 12 years, Bhim Sen Divakar would sell vegetables on a cart pulled by his horse ‘Kaajal’, making rounds from his residence in Saket to various parts of the city. On Tuesday, Mr. Divakar was handed over keys to a brand new battery-operated e-rickshaw and he bid goodbye to his horse.
The 52-year-old vegetable vendor said that the cost of taking care of his horse came up to at least ₹12,000 per month, which will reduce significantly with the replacement of the animal with the e-rickshaw.
“I also faced difficulties with the civic and police officials frequently stopping me during my rounds, claiming that there were restrictions on the movement of animals in the city. With this e-rickshaw, which has a loading deck, I won’t face these problems now,” he said.
Mr. Divakar was one of the five horse owners who were handed keys to battery-operated e-rickshaws in Peera Garhi, on Tuesday, as part of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India’s Delhi Mechanisation Project.
A total of 80 animal-driven carts have been replaced with e-rickshaws since the project was launched in 2018. The aim of the project is to protect animals — horses, bullocks and donkeys – while aiding families that depend on them for their livelihood.
Previous beneficiaries of the project also said that their lives had changed for the better through this project. Salim and Bharat, who owned an ox and a horse respectively for loading purposes, said that the e-rickshaws had helped them save costs and streamline their daily operations.
“I live near Loni Road and used to move to Shahdara and other parts of Delhi with my goods. With this battery vehicle, I live a life of dignity. At the same time the animal doesn’t have to suffer due to the extreme workload,” said Mr. Salim who now drives his e-rickshaw as a public transport vehicle.
“Driving a passenger vehicle fetches a little less revenue, but it does not stain my clothes. It helps me live a peaceful life. I did not like the previous work and this shift helped me move away from it,” said Mr. Salim.
According to Manilal Valliyate, Chief Executive Officer at PETA India, the organisation provides close to ₹60,000 to the animal owner, for the purchase of the battery-operated vehicle, while the animal is relinquished by the owner.
“PETA then takes the animal to a sanctuary where it will spend the rest of its life. We have dedicated sanctuaries at Ranapur (U.P.), Maharashtra and in the Nilgiris. The animal goes to the nearest sanctuary,” said Mr. Valliyate.
He added that his organisation has rehabilitated close to 100 such animals through this project, from Delhi alone.
“There are cases where we have also supported those who own ceremonial horses but want to shift to a mechanised vehicle. We have kept the project flexible because this is a dying business, and the animals, as well as the people, are starving,” Mr. Valliyate said.