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Millennium Post

A RIDE LESS JOYOUS

A RIDE LESS JOYOUS
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E-rickshaws or electric rickshaws have come as a boon for the commuters of Delhi. For many they are an easy and cheap mode of conveyance. But at the same time what is worrying is the safety of commuters who consider it to be an alternative to the CNG-run auto-rickshaw. This has in fact put the e-rickshaws under the scanner of law enforcement agencies.

These e-rickshaws are more economical when compared to auto-rickshaws and make commutation a faster process than manual rickshaws. This service was basically launched to help those residing in colonies off main roads, where means of transport is a big problem. It seems these e-rickshaws have attracted manual rickshaw and auto-rickshaw drivers, the reasons being low cost and high earning. The e-rickshaws are plying on the routes that link Metro stations with city landmarks and tourist spots.

‘I used to drive an auto-rickshaw, but when I came to know about the e-rickshaw and its benefits, I instantly decided to replace my CNG-run auto-rickshaw with e-rickshaw. I earn around Rs 800 daily, of which Rs 400 goes to the owner. The running cost is also low. Charging the battery over one night helps the rickshaw travel up to 50 km,’ said Sanjay Kumar, an e-rickshaw driver.

However, the rise in number of the economical three-wheelers on the city roads is becoming a traffic menace and police are unable to rein in the unruly drivers. This is because these rickshaws do not come under the Motor Vehicles Act. According to some experts, taking advantage of the legal loophole, these drivers violate law openly.
E-rickshaws create traffic snarls in several areas of Delhi, especially Paharganj, RK Ashram Marg, Parliament Street, Uttam Nagar, Kailash Colony and Delhi University. Vehicles with motor power of less than 250W and speed less than 25 kmph are non-motorised vehicles under the Delhi Motor Vehicles Act. However, some of these rickshaws travel with high-powered motors illegally.

Illegal use of higher-powered engines is common. E-rickshaws need a motor of more than 650 W to ferry over five passengers. According to dealers, 850 horsepower engines are the standard now, and engines with lower power are simply not available. ‘They come in knocked down kits from China and you cannot choose between engines,’ said a dealer.

A PIL was filed by a social worker Shehnwaz Khan with regards to e-rickhaws. According to his counsel, Sugriv Dubey, these e-rickshaws operate on four batteries of 12V with power output of 650 to 850 Watts and are designed to ferry only four people, including the driver. But, the drivers of these vehicles carry more than eight people at a time, thereby endangering their lives. He further said that the transport department and civic bodies are blaming each other instead of taking any concrete action to address this problem.

‘These vehicles do not have registration numbers or insurance cover or even fitness certificates. The speed at which e-rickshaws run, between 20 to 40 kmph, is not only a safety hazard but also a reason for traffic jams in many areas, especially near Metro stations,’ said Dubey.

Even the Traffic police is unable to book these drivers as they are not covered under the MV Act and traffic rules of Delhi government, said the counsel, adding that vehicles put passengers at risk as in case of an accident they cannot even claim insurance.

The traffic department has suggested to the Delhi government that operators be issued licences and permits to run the rickshaws as passenger vehicles.

Earlier this year, the Delhi Transport Department decided to crackdown on battery-powered e-rickshaws operating in the city for violating the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act. According to the transport department officials, e-rickshaws are prone to accidents and operate without any statutory clearance. The department had also mulled action against the manufacturers and dealers of such rickshaws under relevant laws.

Even though battery operated rickshaws provide an effective solution to city’s transport problem, lack of a concrete policy has resulted in exploitation of e-rickshaw operators in the national capital.

The battery-powered e-rickshaw drivers blame the transport department for targeting battery rickshaw operators, these operators informed that e-rickshaws are one of the most eco-friendly and convenient mode of transport. However, lack of a clear policy is affecting the lives of thousands of rickshaw operators.

Meanwhile, city traffic police find themselves in a dilemma as these vehicles do not come under the Motor Vehicles Act. ‘We cannot take action against them until they come under the Motor Vehicles Act.

We have to follow the rules and it forced us not to take action against these unruly drivers,’ said Anil Shukla, additional commissioner of police (traffic).
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