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Monday, August 15, 2005

Calcutta bans rickshaws

An interesting piece of news caught my eyes today - Calcutta (a.k.a Kolkata) is planning to ban the famous hand-pulled rickshaws. Well, that came as a real big surprise to me because Calcutta is a city where any proactive action takes years to come and more importantly, even if it does come, it takes years to implement them. Let us look at some of the effects that this decision is going to cause:
  1. I always believed that hand-pulled rickshaws were one of the toughest jobs in the world and also the lowest paying. But in some of the streets in Calcutta where the roads are bad and narrow, these rickshaws are the only means of transport (e.g. Bada Bazaar, M.G Road etc). It now remains to be seen how people are going to survive in these parts of Calcutta.

  2. For reasons which are more philosophical than anything else, I have always tried to avoid getting onto the rickshaws. I have always felt that getting up on the rickshaw and then being pulled by a man who is sweating and tiring was very very unhuman-like. If I can walk it, then I shall do so.

  3. However, the other angle for the argument in Point #2 is that this serves as the only means of income for the hundreds and thousands of rickshaw-pullers in the city. Most of the rickshaws are pulled by the immigrants from Bihar for whom this is the only means of survival. I hope the Govt. has taken this into consideration as well.

  4. One thing that I know that will definitely happen is that there will be less traffic congestion in many areas. Many times I have seen these rickshaws holding up traffic due to lack of space and due to their lack of speed (e.g. in a narrow lane, imagine yourself in a car with a hand-pulled rickshaw in front of you).

All in all, it is probably a good step for Calcutta. We keep talking of making the leap into the new century - hopefully, steps like these are along the same lines.


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