Nagpur: Electric rickshaws or e-rickshaws had started becoming more popular in some cities since 2008 as an alternative to auto-rickshaws and cycle-rickshaws because of their low fuel cost, and less human effort compared to pulled rickshaws. They were also widely accepted as an alternative to Petrol/Diesel/CNG auto rickshaws. The 3-wheel e-rickshaws are pulled by an electric motor ranging from 650-1400 Watts. Battery-run rickshaws could be a low-emitter complementary transport for the low-income people, who suffer most from a lack of transport facility, if introduced in a systematic manner according to experts.
Nagpur Today spoke to three e-rickshaw owners:
Anil Tembekar who has been plying cycle rickshaws for 25 years said that he was convinced by the activists of a political party that instead of cycle-rickshaws, he should buy an e-rickshaw. He sold his old cycle-rickshaw and paid Rs 20,000 as deposit and the remaining 95,000 was financed by a Mahal Cooperative Bank. He opined that when he used to ply his cycle rickshaw, he used to spend a lot of energy and earned only peanuts as remuneration. The auto-rickshaws used to snatch his customers / passengers. However, now he is earning a decent remuneration for his efforts. All he has to do is to charge the e-rickshaws every evening for 6-7 hours and his vehicle is fit to ply. He has a Maxi-Battery-Operated- rickshaw.
Ramkrishna Sarode who had been plying his cycle-rickshaw for 40 years said that he too was convinced by the political party to go for an e-rickshaw. He too paid Rs 20,000 as deposit and the remaining 75,000 is being financed by a cooperative bank. He too opined that wish the RTO gives us the same Registration number as they had given to their cycle-rickshaws.
Ravindra Sakhre too had been plying his cycle- rickshaw for 30 years. A very similar sentiment and opinion as that of the other two e-rickshaws drivers was mentioned by him.
Nagpur Today spoke to Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic) DCP Bharat Tangde about the e-rickshaws and the action his department is taking in the city.
Tangde said that his department will and has been abiding by the rules and regulations laid down in the law. He very categorically stated that his department is and will continue to take action against any vehicle that does not have any registration number and does not have the required approval of the government to ply on the roads.
Nagpur Today spoke to Deputy Regional Transport Officer (Nagpur City) Vijay Chavan about the e-rickshaws. He too very categorically stated that when the central government has put a ban on the vehicle, he and his department will definitely take every penal action required by law against the offenders. He said that till date, his department has taken penal action against 3-4 e-rickshaws, while the Traffic Department has taken action against 4-5 e-rickshaws. He said that any vehicle without RTO registration number is violation Road Transport Vehicle’s Act.
Delhi High Court’s stand
The Delhi High Court is refusing to reverse its ban on these Battery run rickshaws imposed on July 31, 2014. On August 21, 2014, the Delhi Transport Department, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic) and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) had submitted affidavits that they would regulate the plying of e-rickshaws until rules were framed. However, the court said it could not permit something that was prohibited by law.
A division bench of justices B.D. Ahmed and Siddharth Mridul remarked in its judgment, “The plying of unregistered e-rickshaws is illegal as per the law as it exists today.” Saying they “are not creators of law”, the division bench declined to issue guidelines on the basis of the temporary arrangement proposed by the government. The court ordered the government and MCD to prevent the plying of unregistered e-rickshaws.
The judgment also relied upon a report by The Energy Resources Institute (Teri) commissioned by the Delhi government. While referring to how e-rickshaws “have become very popular for first- and last-mile connectivity”, it said that there is “lack of knowledge on how and where the e-rickshaws are manufactured/assembled, what the technology that they use is and how is that these vehicles have entered the transport market in a big way without any approval and regulation”.