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Friday, October 2, 1998 Published at 16:35 GMT 17:35 UK

World: South Asia

The 'phat-phats' are no more

Phat-phats will soon be a thing of the past

Said to be the inspiration for the buggys in the Australian cult film Mad Max, India's motorised rickshaws are hybrid machines: half Harley Davidson, half three-wheeler bicycle.

But this curious part of India's motoring history - commonly known as the "phat-phat" - disappears from the streets of Delhi on Friday as part of the government's move to outlaw commercial vehicles more than 20 years old.

The ban is part of a new environmental measure in the Indian capital - Delhi's authorities are desperate to bring air pollution under control.

By the end of the year, no commercial vehicle on Delhi's roads should be older than 20 years.

But the move makes phat-phats illegal as all were produced more than 25 years ago.

Compensation demand

Owners of the three-wheelers and other older forms of transport complain that the government is snatching away their livelihoods and have threatened to take action against it.

The authorities are offering low interest loans to buy cleaner taxis and rickshaws but drivers say their old vehicles are now worthless and want compensation.

Pollution activists have welcomed the step, which will remove hundreds of thousands of vehicles from the the smog-ridden city.

The familiar phat-phat, intended to carry eight people, is usually crowded with many more for the trip from the centre of New Delhi to the congested heart of the old mogul city.

BBC Delhi correspondent says the city will be starved of public transport as a new metro project will not begin for another eight years.

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