The bicycle rickshaw is a widely used in many Asian countries for short distance travel, especially in eco sensitive areas and cities. The mode of transport is similar to carts pulled by horses; the sole difference being here is that the muscular animal is replaced by usually impecunious men whose impoverished condition has forced them to look for a physically strenuous job for some extra money. In India the rickshaw pullers are often people who have moved to urban areas to look for some extra money due to failure of income from their agricultural labour jobs. The lure is off course only the money they can make though the task is more physically demanding. The strenuous work of pulling the passengers in the cart, especially when they are going uphill takes its toll on the health of the rickshaw pullers who finally end up spending their earning on hospitals and medications.
Why bicycle rickshaw?
Why do we need to travel in a bicycle rickshaw? The question will crop up in the mind of the people, especially those who haven’t experienced personally the ride in a rickshaw as to why this slow and old model of transport is required in a day when there are so many motorized vehicles available for us.
In eco sensitive places like Matheran (hill station in Maharashtra), where motorized vehicles are banned, and in cities like Delhi, where the crowd does not facilitate travelling by motorized vehicles in places like Chandni Chowk, people, especially the tourists have to resort to Bicycle Rickshaw as a final resort. Many people enjoy the ride in the rickshaw as the efficient rickshaw pullers take them gliding through the narrow lanes, shouting at the passersby “Jara Hatke bhai” “ toda side dedo saab”, thus making way through crowds, allowing the rider to enjoy a different experience of ride all together.
Some local people also prefer the bicycle rickshaws as they can be fast, handy and cheaper than any other mode of transport. We cannot say the same for the tourists though, as the rickshaw pullers are known to quote a price at the start of the journey only to increase it at the end of the journey. Most of the tourists cave in to the demands of the rickshaw pullers, and get ripped for more than they should have actually paid.
Rickshaws in Delhi
A rickshaw ride through the lanes of Old Delhi, a city that has managed to hold on to its roots and culture under the onslaught on modernization, is an amazing experience that should not be missed by anyone visiting the city. There are various pre-designated travel routes through which the rickshaws will take the tourists through, to give a glimpse into the interior of the city where the crowded lanes are filled with shops, hawkers and roadside eateries. The rickshaws have been updated to lure foreign tourists with amenities like comfortable cushioned seats, safety seat belts, first aid kits, holders for water bottles etc. The tour usually runs through sites like the Red Fort, Chandni Chowk, Gauri Shanker Temple, Sunheri Masjid, Khari Baoli, Rang Mahal and many more.
In many places, people often come across the beautifully decorated bicycle rickshaws standing on the road side, where the rickshaw pullers shout out various lucrative offers to attract passengers.
Many travellers go through the ethical dilemma of sitting in comfort in the backseat of a vehicle, when the fellow human being is struggling in the front. But then, they also realize that by taking the ride, they will be providing some income to the person, which they would take away from him, by refusing the ride. For many this is the sole way of providing utterly basic necessity for his family.
The saddest part of the whole scenario comes from the extortion carried out by the police and other related officers in the name of legal issues from the rickshaw pullers. Rickshaw pullers often are subjected to violence due to their social status and economic condition, they are easy prey to police, fellow road users who are offended by the way they obstruct their path and also at times by the passengers who are enraged with higher demands of pay.
What the government should do is to provide a life of dignity, fair wages to the man using his energy to pull another man to his destination thus giving us cleaner cities and sustainable transportation which helps in maintenance of ecological balance.
So don’t be afraid to ride the rickshaw in India.