A New charter on life


By Ashim Sunam

“I have been beaten several times by my rickshaw owner behind closed doors as I was not able to pay him his daily rent of 40 rupees”, says a rickshaw puller from Bihar.

The exploitative nature of these contractors is a common ailment for the rickshaw pullers. They refer to it as “aam baat”, meaning “usual affair”.They do not protest the brutality they are subjugated under. They depend on these contractors for their daily bread. Thesecontractors who rent out rickshaws do not have proper license to ply on the roads

SIFE is an International NGO which mobilizes university students in developing the community. The students discovered that 95% of the rickshaws plying on the University are rented for 40 rupees per day. Ram Shiromani a puller who migrated from Allahabad says, “Like me, most of the pullers come from far off places like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and West Bengal with the prospect of sending their hard earned savings back home”.

Hence SIFE introduced a project called “Life on Wheels” which would benefit the pullers. It helps them in acquiring loans which allows them to purchase special rickshaws provided by SIFE. Abhay Kumar, faculty advisor of SIFE says, “We have tied up with Punjab National Bank for providing loans to the pullers. SRCC stands as guarantor for them”.

Many students from North campus (Delhi University) have often witnessed these incidents, where pullers have been slapped and beaten in public. The police usually turn a naked eye. Students in Free Enterprise at Shri Ram College of commerce (SIFE SRCC) took it upon themselves to rescue these poor migrant rickshaw pullers from such humiliation and shame.

The new rickshaws that they ply now are a unique upgrade from those of yesteryear. It has many facilities for its passengers, like dust bins, water bottle stand, newspaper stand along with its soft cushioned seat. There are only 42 such rickshaws plying on University roads at north campus. It has only been introduced in the Delhi University.

Sapan looks at his new rickshaw and says, “I will finally own a rickshaw of my own”. If these pullers pay their loans of Rs 250/week on a regular basis they can call it their own within a short span of a 12 months.  All these men were granted a loan of 10,480 rupees which includes a rickshaw, Insurance, MCD licenses and2 sets of blue coloured uniform.

SIFE launched its first 5 rickshaws on December 2009 with the support and presence of Delh Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit. “It was a proud moment for us as Ms. Dikshit praised the efforts of the youth and encouraged us more.” says Radhika Goel, the former President of SIFE from SRCC in 2009. They were expected to launch a total of 75 such rickshaws before the Common wealth games, but they failed in doing so. Mahek, the president of SIFE says, “The ban on rickshaws during the commonwealth games hindered our progress”. Around 60 more rickshaws are expected to hit the roads in the next few months.

Raju who does not own a SIFE rickshaw also wants to own one. He can’t, because he does not have an Idenity card which is a must under this scheme. On the contrary, Santosh is ecstatic, as he waits for the next stock of rickshaws which are ready to be launched in the coming month. He will be one of the first among the new lot to receive it.  “This rickshaw will provide me with a particular status within the rickshaw community”, utters Santosh with a sense of pride prevailing in his voice.

Gautam regrets the previous 15 years of his life that he spent in Delhi pulling a rented rickshaw. He says “I was a slave in the hands of my master”. He rented a rickshaw everyday for 15 years and does not have any savings to show for it. He adds,” the amount of rent that I have paid to my owner (contractor) till date would have easily fetched me around 35-40 rickshaws”.

With a firm grip on his new black rickshaw he takes his passenger and offers a newspaper to read for his short journey.

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~ by Fotoramus on December 1, 2010.

One Response to “A New charter on life”

  1. ashim – all in all good – just some grammar here and there needs to be corrected.. keep it up

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