The hazards of native ingenuity

City traffic police warn that fish carts that don’t obey specified rules will be seized

Some call it a classic example of the Indian jugaad, a cheap solution to a problem that bends the rules. Others call it a marvel of native engineering and ingenuity. For the city’s old timer, however, it’s still the Meen Badi Vandi — fish cart in old Madras slang.

The fish cart was a miracle in the way it was put together in the by-lanes of North Madras. It inspired wonder and fear, in good measure! “These were initially called as mini-vandi (small vehicles), then in due course people started calling it meen vandi or fish cart. It mainly ferried goods like vegetables,” said historian V. Sriram.

Notorious for accidents, the contraption was a common sight on Chennai roads. Some were just wooden planks nailed together and outfitted with a crude transmission and bike engine. Others boasted of a semblance of a suspension. Originally, the engines were quite powerful, at 100 cc and 150 cc. These vehicles provided a relatively inexpensive means of transporting goods but were notorious for accidents. “At high speed, the chain would give away and the rider would invariably collide with a motorist or a pedestrian,” recalls Mr. Sriram.

Source of danger

C.P. Singh, a former transport commissioner with the Tamil Nadu government, recalled how the vehicles were a source of danger on Chennai roads. “They used to transport red meat and vegetables in a very unhygienic manner,” he recalled. They are illegal and do not have permission to ply on the road, he said.

“The braking system was not proper and these vehicles were assembled in makeshift shops. Fishermen used to ferry fish on these vehicles. When reaching their destination, the fish carts would become mobile shops,” he added.

In a statement on Friday, the Traffic Police have explained the restrictions on these fish carts. Important points include restricting the engine capacity to 25 cc and the requirement of valid registrations.

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Printable version | Jun 3, 2020 12:25:46 PM |

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