Have you used Hand Pulled Rickshaws of Kolkata ?
During 2005- 2006, there was this announcement by West Bengal government that hand pulled rickshaws of Kolkata would be banned with the promise that the rickshaw pullers would be rehabilitated. The ban never materialized; protests from these hand rickshaw pullers being the main reason.
My Only Experience with Hand Pulled Rickshaws of Kolkata
I took my one and only ride in tana rickshaw in 2013 when I visited Kolkata. (Tana in Bengali means pulled, hence the name tana rickshaw in Kolkata) Very hesitantly I hired one hand pulled rickshaw and didn’t have the heart to negotiate the price quoted by him. I availed the services of hand pulled rickshaw to visit Thakurbari, a distance of 850m from Girish Park Metro station. Throughout I kept wishing the ride would end soon. I was ridden with guilt by the end of the ride and paid him more than what he asked. “Your first ride didi?” he had asked and took the money with a smile and gratitude. Had I taken a taxi to cross the distance I don’t know when I would have reached my destination. The roads so confusing that I didn’t dare to set off on foot.
These hand pulled rickshaws of Kolkata are common in the metropolitan city of India, Kolkata, surprising indeed! For those pulling the rickshaws it is a matter of bread and butter. The very survival of these people depends on the earnings made from travelers taking these rides. If you are in Kolkata, forget driving your vehicle. Chances are you will reach your destination many hours late. These rickshaw pullers know the lanes and by lanes thoroughly.
History of Hand Pulled Rickshaws
Trace back into the history of transports of India: the hand pulled rickshaws first appeared in India, in Shimla at around 1880. At the turn of the century hand pulled rickshaws were introduced in Calcutta and in 1914 was a conveyance for hire. Japan is credited to have invented this mode of transport in 1860s. It was introduced to several countries of Asia. The hand pulled rickshaws have very unique catchy names in different countries: pousse-pousse in Madagascar, Zulu rickshaw puller in South Africa. While some countries have banned it considering it to be degrading for human beings, it has continued to be popular in some sections of society because of the ease of service.
Advantages of Hand Pulled Rickshaws
Biggest advantage of hand pulled rickshaws is that you get door to door drop and not limited to public bus stops or stations. The speed is like your jogging speed. Another advantage is he knows the shortest way to your destination and is skillful in crossing busy roads. Once in a while you will hear him shouting at the passersby to make way for the rickshaw and you may get glances from passersby. These rickshaws have good seats and a shade that can be pulled over your head. Those rickshaw owners who can afford, their rickshaws are painted in myriad colors and designs.
Rickshaw Puller Sad Life Story
But their life is a sad story! Almost all of them are uneducated, not knowing any other life skill to survive. Statistics reveal 90% of rickshaw-pullers are homeless, with an overwhelming majority of 54% living in deras (garages or places where they park their carts). Another 39% live on the pavements; the rest live in their own or rented houses. Additionally survey also revealed that 60% of rickshaw-pullers suffer from tuberculosis and other lung diseases. Their lifestyle makes them prone to respiratory diseases and heart ailments. (Statistics from 2010)
It will take sincere, wholehearted, result oriented efforts on part of government and public for their upliftment.