E-RICKSHAW- ONE WAY FORWARD FOR A RECOUPING INDIA

BY KAMLESH TRIPATHI

‘Global’ is more muscle than ‘National’ and National more defining than the Local. ER (E-Rickshaw) is far becoming a global phenomenon. But for some, it is still the Galileo’s belief; however, its scintillating attributes have already started caressing nations to include it in the developing arc of their local confines.

But, for this to happen leaps and bounds, someone needs to sight the lodestar and steer the volatile ship of change. Prime Minister Sri Narendra Modi in no uncertain terms has taken up the mantle of bringing about such a change; where he talks and talks about ‘Acchey din’ for one and all. But this will not happen in a vacuum.

For this humungous population of 1.3 billion you require at least one crore jobs each year to stay the course. And mind you 65% percent of our population is below 35 years of age where very few are brilliantly educated; and not many pull through the level of secondary education, and most certainly the majority is not skilled. So, you need a plethora jobs for such profiles of your population. And, with these loaded rudimentary statistics even the increased spin offs by existing behemoths and corporations will not deliver any delight. You certainly will require something different, maybe a breed of differently talented merchants, entrepreneurs, to bring about a paradigm shift of the wanted type.

As a concerned citizen of India I feel GOI (Government of India) should move in five thrust areas. One: promote entrepreneurship as all can’t be accommodated in jobs. Two: welcome products that have employment generation potential like the e-rickshaw through aggressive promotional schemes and by throttling resistance if any by vested camps and play it to merit. Three: ramp up eco-friendly products that earn carbon emission numbers. Four: provide convenience to its citizenry residing even in the last mile of connectivity. Five: move on fast pace as time is of essence.

And, therefore by all standards ER does foot the bill. Even though a distant cousin of a cycle-rickshaw, it holds up to human dignity as it moves with the power of an electric motor; and not pulled by human bones and muscles. A sturdy machine built on strong steel pipes, with a battery backup of 90-100 km per recharge and cruise speed of 20-25 km an hour, almost like a fast pedaled bicycle. Noiseless, non-polluting, hence superior to auto-rickshaws, with no clutch, gear and cheap maintenance with a carrying capacity of 4-6 people with a kerb weight of around 350-400 kg. All the three wheels are pulled by an electric motor ranging from 650-1400 watts. The product is a brain child of the dragon- agile China that combats any market with its cost prudent technology, quick responses to customer needs and the scheming competition.

ER is popular in many countries since 2008 and is nicknamed as TUK-TUK. From an eco-friendly green product to a staunch, has-to-be, viable alternative to Petrol-Diesel-CNG auto rickshaws; that pollute in varying and frightening degrees all the way.

Mighty India comprises of 676 districts, 5559 taluks and 638588 villages and a lot of it still remains uncovered, virgin in terms of last mile connectivity- a ‘Corporate Management’ term coined by some business thinkers; is where this vehicle can do wonders with its narrow wheel tread that can touch upon every constricted nook and corner. And in all sanity, these battery run ERs could be a low-emitter complementary transport for the low-income people, who suffer most from lack of transport facility; if introduced in a systematic manner, feel experts. And I also understand.

ER has already given employment to two-lakh e-rickshaw drivers in Delhi and that establishes my lifeline point of product having direct and indirect employment potential. Hailing it as nature friendly, even honourable High Court paid compliments by calling it a non-polluting and a vehicle with human dignity. But what I also gather is rather strange and shifty.

• Every e-rickshaw has to be approved by the government before the vehicle can operate in Delhi. But why every ER, is the big question? Why not the proto-type alone designed by any Company, on laid down specifications? For this is neither done in the case of bullock carts nor high tech automobiles. Sounds puerile and ominously bureaucratic. And then we talk of doing business in India with ease.

• The vehicle has to be insured and registered.

• ER drivers need to have a driving license as per a government notification on e-rickshaws. But then what about a cycle-rickshaw driver or for that matter a person pedalling a bicycle as both move on roads and a cycle rickshaw even carries passengers. A level playing field therefore should be thought of. Moreover, a special camp will be required to issue two lakh driving licences in Delhi alone; double bonanza for RTOs to mess around. What to talk of India.

• Stipulation that drivers should have at least studied till high school is quite a poignant paradox; to become a M.P. or a Cabinet Minister you require no qualification but to become an e-rickshaw driver you need to qualify high school standard.

• To get each e-rickshaw model approved, one has to pay rupees five lakh while the e-rickshaw only costs rupees eighty thousand. Sounds Orwellian. How will the poor owner pay this amount? This stinks and smells of immoral cartel instigation or bureaucratic sadism or even a devilish cocktail. And surely it will hurt manifold the young and poor youth of our country trying to etch out a square meal out of this trade. I am sure GOI is not sleeping and has food for thought.

To solve issues government should invite manufacturers and assemblers and lay down guidelines for ERs, under which they should submit prototypes for approval. This could be done in consultation with eminent players of the industry, automobile institutes, doyens of trade and even bureaucratic amalgamation as this will surely digress into a sensible solution. And, last but not the least I am more than sure.

GOI will make no mistake and will take this controversial bull by the horns as the issue involves and concerns myriads of employment seeking youth of our country; and where there is a will there has to be a fast way out.

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