On the move Delhi

The easy mile forward

E-rickshaws are possibly the only mode of reasonable public transport for some commuters.  

When e-rickshaws first appeared in Delhi, few imagined that they would become a rage within a few months, and a part and parcel of the already-overcrowded roads.

It was, however, their efficiency, low-operation cost, size and easy navigability that endeared them to their operators and the public alike.

The operators love them because they cost just a fraction of what auto-rickshaws cost and are much cheaper to run. For the commuters, these provide a “shared” travel option in Delhi that costs much less than auto-rickshaws or cycle rickshaws. These battery-run vehicles with their zero emissions would, under normal circumstances, also have been the darling of environmentalists.

Since these began operating in many New Delhi Municipal Council areas, they offered a large population of helpers and workers living in staff quarters with possibly their only mode of reasonable public transport.

The “silent” transport revolution ushered in by these vehicles apart, there are no laws to govern them. They are motorised and so cannot be treated like cycle rickshaws under municipal laws. They also use less power and so cannot be governed under the Motor Vehicles Rules and remain out of the purview of the Traffic Police.

Though the Delhi Government tried to regulate them through an order, it was struck down by courts. These battery-run vehicles therefore continue to run without any regulation. Perhaps that is why they continue to be a cheap mode of transport.

So when Reena, who lives in Vasundhara Enclave in East Delhi, has to go to Maharaja Agrasen College in Mayur Vihar, she prefers to take an e-rickshaw. “It only costs Rs.5 for a trip that costs twice as much by the Delhi Metro and about 10 times as much by an auto-rickshaw.”

Another student Vishakha insisted she found e-rickshaws safe to commute by after dark. “At least you are visible to the outside world along with other co-passengers. So it is safer than auto-rickshaws.”

Arguments against e-rickshaws are that they are unsafe, usually overloaded and violate traffic norms with impunity, leading to congestion on the streets. However, Delhiites hope that these continue to provide the last mile connectivity, remain economical, are regulated and do not fall prey to the Inspector Raj, the way cycle rickshaws and auto-rickshaws did.

By Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2022 8:07:50 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/the-easy-mile-forward/article5829372.ece

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