E-Rickshaw: A Boon For The Lower Rungs
Even after 65 years of independence, India is still flooded with large number of unemployed mass barely having any means of livelihood. To overcome this problem, the legislators have inserted a new Section 2A in THE MOTOR VEHICLES (AMENDMENT) ACT, 2015 which has brought e-carts and e-rickshaws under the ambit of Motor Vehicle Act and provisions of this Act shall apply to e-carts and e-rickshaws. This Section has defined “e-cart or e-rickshaw” as ‘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’.
Further, it has done away with difficulties and restrictions in granting license to the drivers of the e-rickshaws and e- carts by amending Section 7(1) of the Motor Vehicle Act, 1998. Earlier, under the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988, a person cannot be granted a Learner’s License to drive a transport vehicle, unless he has held the Driving License for a period not less than one year. But the new amendment has removed this difficulty. Now e-rickshaw drivers would not have to wait for an entire year to get a license to drive their battery-operated vehicles. If e-rickshaw drivers pass the driving test, they will be issued learner’s licenses. One can get a license to drive an e-rickshaw after 10 days training. The condition of being eighth class passed has also been removed. After 30 days of getting the learner’s license they will get general Light Motor Vehicle (LMV) licenses which are mandatory for driving transport vehicles. This new amendment has come up as a wave of happiness for these pauper drivers as most of the e-rickshaws and e-carts drivers do not have any license and thereby not debarring them their means of livelihood.
The new e-rickshaw service in India is pollution free and green in nature as there is no emission of smoke or pollution from it. These e-rickshaws do not need any diesel, petrol, CNG or LPG. Moreover, it is very cost-effective both for the drivers and the passengers. It provides a viable economical mode of transport. Since it is battery operated, it may be cost effective. One e-rickshaw costs around Rs. 90,000 to 1 lakh because the e- rickshaw is made of Fiber Reinforced Plastic (FRP) and is considerably cheaper than the other. While FRP body provides a cost advantage there are certain concerns about the road worthiness of the same. In case of accidents the riders may be subjected to greater life risks but it is a boon for the poor mass. The reason behind this is that both the drivers as well as the passengers are pauper. The e-rickshaw pullers are subjected to extreme hardship and labour in extreme conditions. The rickshaw pullers work in all seasons whether summer or rainy. The provision that only the owner of the e-rickshaw will drive it will result in the rickshaw pullers themselves becoming the owner. To benefit the weaker sections of the society, this act provides for a loan at the rate of 3 per cent per annum to buy an e-rickshaw without any guarantee. The Chief Minister of West Bengal has brought 6,000 manually pulled rickshaws under green rickshaws or e-rickshaws to provide employment as well as to provide pollution-free environment to our new generations.
Moreover, e-rickshaw can also contribute in empowering the women of our society by providing women drivers and thereby ensuring the safety of women passengers. The safety measures which are already there in the Motor Vehicle Act will also be applicable in the case of e-rickshaw.
The maximum speed limit according to specification is about twenty-five kilometers whereas conventional rickshaws can attain the speed of seventy kilometers or more. It is unviable to ply on the highways due to its low speed which increases the probability of accidents. There has been much uproar keep these vehicles out of the highway and allow only on sub-lanes. There is limitation with regard to the number of passengers that is only upto four persons with the weight of baggage to forty kilograms. Sometimes these e-rickshaw drivers illegally use a higher capacity battery to enhance the speed up to forty kilometers. That challenges the very basic premises of ousting the e-rickshaw from the ambit of the motor-vehicle act.
Presently, these e-rickshaws are being imported from China. But if the government will make it mandatory for the buyers of e-rickshaws to use only those e-rickshaws are be made in India only. Thus, it would encourage employment and will also help in boosting the economy of the country. Further, this would be ensuring quality control of the vehicles that are being built in India. As majority of e-rickshaws are manufactured outside India and they are smuggled from there in various forms. Thus, the Government loses a good amount of customs related revenue. So, it would be beneficial for both the country as well as the large unemployed mass if they would be using made-in-India products only for building e-rickshaws.
This Amendment would be providing relief to those poor rickshaw pullers whose entire family is dependent on those rickshaws. It will not only ensure relief to the poor people but will also help making the pollution free environment. Until now none has given a moment to think about the rickshaws pullers working conditions. Many times the over packed rickshaws taking children to school are overturned which results in death of the children. The rickshaw pullers are exploited mentally, economically and physically and are also subjected to humiliations and abuses. They suffer all kinds of humiliations to earn their livelihood. The technological advancement must be use to put an end to this inhumane practice of pulling rickshaws manually.
If this amendment is properly regulated, it would be a boon for the people belonging to the lower rung of the society. There cannot be any other such welfare measure in respect of safeguarding the interest of the poor masses. Since these e-rickshaws are cost-effective, green in nature and can go in narrow lanes and hence it should be encouraged.