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Last Updated: Friday, 29 September 2006, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
Delhi court bans cycle rickshaws
By John Sudworth
BBC News, Delhi

A rickshaw puller in Delhi
Rickshaw pullers say the ban will hurt their livelihoods
The cycle rickshaw, the ubiquitous symbol of urban transport in India, has run into a pot hole.

The authorities in the capital, Delhi blame the three-wheeled taxi-bike for causing congestion and have decided to ban it from part of the city centre.

But transport campaigners say it's a backwards step.

Many European cities, they argue, are beginning to view the rickshaw as part of the solution.

Not in Delhi though. Along Chandni Chowk, the bustling main thoroughfare in the heart of the old city, there are wall-to-wall rickshaws, often riding three abreast.

We're poor people, so what else can we do?
Dravida, rickshaw puller

The problem it seems is that they are just too popular.

"The traders along Chandni Chowk went to the High Court and submitted that the rickshaws cause a lot of traffic problems," says Deep Mathur from the Municipal Corporation of Delhi.

"They make it very difficult for the fast moving vehicles to pass. They stand in clusters and create congestion."

Now, as the result of the order from the High Court, they are to be banned from Chandni Chowk.

Moral basis

The authorities say they will enforce the order and replace the rickshaws with an environmentally-friendly, battery-powered bus service.

"We're poor people, so what else can we do?" asks one rickshaw-puller, Dravida.

"If we can't do this we will have to turn to crime or return to our villages."

There are an estimated 2,500 rickshaws plying their trade along Chandni Chowk.

Rickshaws in Delhi
Authorities say that the rickshaws congest the busy roads
Madhu Kishwar is a social activist who is helping the drivers protest against the ban.

"Cycle rickshaws are now plying in Oxford, London, Paris and Singapore. In Delhi the consumers need them for transport, the pullers need them as a source of income, what business has the government to ban them?," she says.

In fact London is considering introducing a system of licensing for cycle rickshaws.

This will give them a form of official status that is making taxi drivers very unhappy. They also want them banned from the city centre.

"There are some quite steep inclines in central London," says Bob Oddy from the Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association.

"When the rickshaws are pedalling up hill they leave a line of buses, taxis and other cars behind them. It seems to me Delhi is doing the right thing," he adds.

"They're moving forward while London is moving backwards."

The authorities in Delhi say there are other areas where the cycle rickshaws are free to continue working.

But campaigners like Madhu Kishwar say there is a principle at stake.

"A parked car is a dead use of space, but the cycle rickshaw provides service to at least a hundred people per day, and it gives employment to the puller, the owner, and the repairman," she says.

"If you don't have any restriction on the number of cars in this city, on what moral basis can you restrict rickshaws?"

Dhaka's beleaguered rickshaw wallahs
05 Oct 02 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Delhi's risky rickshaws
08 Jun 00 |  South Asia

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