[OPE-L] The end of the rickshaw in Calcutta

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Thu Dec 07 2006 - 12:06:29 EST

Farewell to hand-pulled rickshaws

By Subir Bhaumik
BBC News, Calcutta

The hand-pulled rickshaw of Calcutta, immortalised by Dominic Lapierre's
famous novel, City of Joy, will soon be consigned to the history books. A
bill passed by the West Bengal state assembly described the centuries-old
mode of transport as "inhumane." The assembly passed the Calcutta Hackney
Carriage (Amendment) Bill (2006) on Monday by a majority vote.

Ruling left front lawmakers voted in favour, but the Congress and the
Trinamul Congress parties opposed it. "Westerners try to associate beggars
and these rickshaws with the Calcutta landscape, but this is not what
Calcutta stands for. Our city stands for prosperity and development," West
Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya told journalists recently.
"This inhuman mode of transport should have stopped years ago," said
communist city mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya. "We can't imagine one man
sweating and straining to pull another man."

Chinese traders introduced the hand-pulled rickshaw to Calcutta in the early
20th century and sinewy, emaciated barefoot men have been pulling the
vehicles ever since. They are still a common sight in the city, and are
especially in demand during the monsoon when flooded streets make it hard
for commuters to use taxis or cars. The rickshaw pullers, whose wiry bodies
glisten with sweat as they haul their loads are sometimes known as "human

They earn around 100 rupees ($2.25) a day. Most sleep, eat and live on the
city's crowded pavements. Many are poor people from states neighbouring West
Bengal. In most cases they do not own the vehicles, but pay a sizeable
potion of their earnings to hire them. China banned hand-pulled rickshaws
after the communists took power in 1949. Calcutta is one of only a few
places left in the world where such vehicles are used as everyday transport.

Complete story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/6206544.stm

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Sun Dec 31 2006 - 00:00:04 EST