The Financial Express

How practical it is to phase out rickshaw

Neil Ray | Published: December 13, 2015 22:14:13 | Updated: October 23, 2017 04:34:24

How practical it is to phase out rickshaw
The dichotomy involving the phasing-out of rickshaws from the streets of the capital or not has supporters divided for and against with the majority willing to see those off. It is not for nothing that fresh licences to these manually driven clumsy three-wheelers have not been issued since 1983. The last time it was done was in 1982 when 79,554 rickshaws reportedly received permission to ply the capital's roads. Then some main thoroughfares were kept off-limit to these vehicles as if to signal that their time here was over. 
However, rickshaws have not only survived but returned very strongly with their illegal proliferation. Even the general secretary of the Jatiya Rickshaw-Van Shramik League admits that approximately 0.25 million (25 lakh)  unlicensed rickshaws have been huddling for space on the city streets. Clearly, the number of illegal rickshaws is about 20 times the legally permitted ones. 
This exposes the lack of plan and policy on the part of those at the helm of the city's transport sector. On what basis was the ceiling on the number of rickshaws fixed? Now that such an enormous number of these vehicles run on the city roads makes no one proud. It has only encouraged mounting irregularities with the assorted businesses involving their operation taking a firm root. Even the men in uniform either willingly or unwillingly got entangled with the vicious circle. 
A sound policy and the following plans take stock of the objective situation and the emerging problems in order to brace for the future need. Neither of those was in place and hence the city has been encountering an awful traffic situation round the year. It is not only in connection with the paddling vehicle but also with other vehicles as well. 
Rickshaws are there because they have demand. If there are fast, comfortable and hassle-free commuting facilities, the slow, highly vulnerable and inconvenient (particularly at times of foul weather) vehicle will automatically phase out on it own. When a mega city of around 15 million inhabitants has no commuter trains within the city limit, it does not speak of any transport policy. Public buses are poor alternative to trains that carry thousands of passengers at a time. 
Even limitless numbers of personal cars within the city centres and busy areas need to be discouraged in order to retain space for people to negotiate the heavy rush. In a situation like this, a rickshaw has an advantage over a car because the latter occupies more space. Also cars are parked right on the roadside or footpath which rickshaws seldom do. If pulling rickshaws was not a hard labour and the fare within the means of common people, in certain zones of the city they should have been allowed to enjoy the sole monopoly. 
For the traffic chaos and accidents, rickshaws are least blameable; rather it is the uninitiated automobile drivers who are responsible. On that and the other most important count -pollution-free that is - a rickshaw scores more points than other vehicles. 
Still the fact is, a capital city cannot depend on the three-wheelers. It will have to go for mass transport such as commuter trains -either expressway or metro rail or both-for rapid transit. If and when there is such a dependable system of transportation, rickshaws will find they are of little use and make their way out.

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