Waris Khan,50 waits at Okhla head for passengers, cleaning the front of his e-rickshaw, this has been his routine from last four years. His spent most of his life as a truck driver. Grey beard, sunken eyes and face reflecting the early morning sun rays. “I was content with this” he says.
He bought an e-rickshaw for ninety-eight thousand rupees four years ago, earning enough to make both ends meet.But that is over now. After the years of confusion, he has finally started for other options to earn his livelihood.
Respective governments with their unclear policy for e-rickshaws have put thousand e-rickshaw drivers on the brink of losing their only source of income.
Without proper regulations and the frequent accidents involving, e-rickshaws were banned by the Delhi High Court in April 2014 saying that these are “ “hazard to other traffic on the roads and citizens,”.
Only in October 2014 govt had notified the rules for plying of e-rickshaws, making driver’s license mandatory for operating them and limiting their maximum speed to 25 km.
Introduced in 2010 there are about 100000 lakh e-rickshaws pulling on Delhi roads, however only 6500 have registered yet, according to Battery Rickshaw Welfare Organization.
Only after the bill was passed by the Parliament to amend the Motor Vehicles Act 1988 in March 2015, e-rickshaws could ply again on roads. The section inserted into the original act says, , “e-cart or e-rickshaw” means a special purpose battery powered vehicle of power not exceeding 4000 watts, having three wheels for carrying goods or passengers, as the case may be, for hire or reward, manufactured, constructed or adapted, equipped and maintained in accordance with such specifications, as may be prescribed in this behalf.
Now the e-rickshaw drivers would have to obtain necessary learning license before they can buy and then register with the traffic department to ply on roads.
Delhi govt has ordered manufacturers to sell e-rickshaws only after obtaining the learning license from the drivers. But the old ones would have to retrofit their e-rickshaws to be eligible for registration.
Few e-rickshaws can be seen with registration numbers on the roads, even if the deadline ends on March 31. Most of the rickshaw drivers I talked to said because of the costs involved they can not apply for the registration and some were completely unaware of the deadline of the necessary registration process and the subsidy offered by the Delhi govt. for registration.
“I can operate in four kilometer radius of Nizamuddin Police Station” says Capitan Singh an e-rickshaw driver from MP operating from the Nizammudin Railway Station to the nearest Metro Station. Not knowing that from March 31 he can not operate his e-rickshaw.
Transport department is holding special camps for registration from March 9 to register more and more e-rickshaws. But that is unlikely to benefit given the level of awareness in the drivers. Captain Singh will have to stop from
Khan’s e-rickshaw being an old model, would need retrofitting to apply for registration. He would need nearly 40000 for that and a number of working days visiting to process his registration papers. Delhi Finance Corporation has agreed to provide loans for the necessary retro-fitment at 13 percent interest for a period of two years. ” Who is going to spend all that time with out earning anything? How will I feed my family? ” he says. He too is unaware of the subsidy of Rs 30000 given by the govt. for retrofitting and registration.
E-rickshaws operate on four batteries and carry four passengers and operate at a speed of 25km/hr.But frequent tampering with batteries to increase the power and carrying more than four passengers is at the heart of this fiasco. That became the reason for the Delhi High Court to ban them.
The story was done for department magazine, The Converge at AJK MCRC.