Union Minister Gadkari to revoke ban on e-rickshaws, family firm wants to make them

PGT was one of 12 companies that responded to the UP govt's invitation in supplying battery-run rickshaws in October 2012.

Written by Jay Mazoomdaar | New Delhi | Updated: July 1, 2014 11:54 am
gadkari-L Union Minister Nitin Gadkari.

A fortnight ago, Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari said the government would change the law to overturn a ban on e-rickshaws in the capital and launch the “Deen Dayal scheme” under which potential buyers of the vehicle would get a loan at 3 per cent interest.

This was not only good news for an estimated 1 lakh operators who currently ply their trade in a legal grey zone — with no regulation on either standards or safety — but also for a company in Nagpur closely linked with Gadkari and his family.

Purti Green Technologies (PGT) Private Limited, registered in 2011, is one of the companies of the Purti Group founded by Gadkari — he was chairman until 2011. PGT is one of seven companies licensed by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to manufacture and sell battery-run rickshaws in 2012. PGT director Ashok alias Rajesh Totade, Gadkari’s brother-in-law, told The Indian Express that the company has been waiting for this exemption on motor wattage so that it can start manufacturing and marketing battery-run rickshaws.

It’s exactly this exemption that Gadkari referred to in his speech at a rally on June 17. “E-rickshaws having motor up to 650 W will be regarded as non-motorised vehicles. The transport department and traffic police cannot challan them,” he said, promising to amend the Motor Vehicles (MV) Act, 1988, that, currently, exempts only vehicles under 250 W with a speed limit of 25 kmph.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Totade said: “We would not get into anything illegal as there was this question on motor wattage. But now with the Centre planning to change the (Motor Vehicles) Act, we will be ready to launch our product in the market.”

Responding to an email from The Indian Express asking if his announcement raises questions of propriety and conflict of interest, Gadkari said: “These rickshaws are being manufactured by various companies and no particular manufacturer has got monopoly over its production nor is any one banned from doing so…As far as encouraging banks to provide loan to e-rickshaw owners at 3% is concerned, I have already written to the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and the Union finance minister Shri Arun jaitley to do the needful,” he said. (For full reply, see Excerpts from Nitin Gadkari’s response to questions by The Indian Express below)

With Gadkari talking of 2 crore e-rickshaw units across the country and the average price of a battery-run rickshaw estimated between Rs 70,000 and Rs 100,000, manufacturers like PGT are waiting to rush in.

Gadkari’s interest in e-rickshaws isn’t new. In January 2013, he showcased one of the PGT battery-run rickshaws with NCP leader Sharad Pawar by his side at Agro Vision 2013 exhibition in Nagpur. In October that year, at a Purti function, he announced that a part of the cost to buy these rickshaws would be borne by the Purti Group and the Deen Dayal Trust run by it.

That trust is, in fact, Deen Dayal Upadhyay Institute of Medical Science, Research and Human Resources, and is chaired by Gadkari himself.

When contacted, its director Viral Kamdar told The Indian Express: “Gadkariji told me that our trust could bear some of the cost of Purti’s rickshaws, along with some other trusts, so that the buyer’s burden of bank or government loan is reduced. We had a talk some time back but details of the scheme are yet to be worked out.”

“This rickshaw project has been a dream of Gadkariji,” said PGT director Totade. “We are not into rickshaws so much for making money — we have bigger businesses — as to end an inhuman practice. Our models are totally indigenous and better suited for Indian roads than Chinese rickshaws being sold in Delhi. We spent more than three years in R&D. Our subsidy scheme didn’t take off because of legal restrictions. Now, thanks to the bold decisions of the new government, we will enter the market.”

Ashok alias Rajesh Totade is Nitin Gadkari’s brother-in-law. Ashok’s elder brother Kishor Kamalakar Totade is one of the three directors of Softlink Technologies Pvt Ltd along with sister Kanchan Gadkari née Totade. PGT is registered at the address of the Totade brothers.
Prasad Prabhakarrao Kashikar, the other director of PGT, is also director of Chaitanya Constructions And Builders Private Limited along with Nitin Gadkari’s son Sarang Gadkari.

PGT, incidentally, was one of 12 companies that responded to the Uttar Pradesh government’s invitation for Expression of Interest in supplying battery-run rickshaws in October 2012. The UP government had tested sample rickshaws from these companies including two from PGT in 2013 and selected six firms, including PGT.

However, none of the six companies bid when a tender was floated in December 2013 and subsequently cancelled for technical reasons. Fresh bids, say UP government sources, will be invited once the Centre amends the MV Act.

‘No one has monopoly over production nor is any one banned’

Excerpts from Nitin Gadkari’s response to questions by The Indian Express

Purti Green Technologies Pvt Ltd, one of the companies of the Purti group that you chaired till 2011, has shown interest in manufacturing and selling battery-run rickshaws. Given that PGT will benefit from a change in the law regarding motor wattage, do you think your decision to amend the MV Act raises the question of impropriety and conflict of interest?

The interests and welfare of over two lakh e-rickshaw drivers and their families has been upper most in mind of the Narendra Modi government while reviewing the notification that was issued during the UPA regime by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) on April 24 to the e-rickshaw pullers, rendering them illegal…
The notification was depriving the poor e-rickshaw drivers of their employment and livelihood to their families.
Besides, the e-rickshaws are eco-friendly and can be driven by women and people with disabilities. According to our estimates more than 10 lakh families are dependent on this mode of transport…
Thousands of e-rickshaws have been operating in Delhi NCR & some other cities across the country for a number of years. These rickshaws are being manufactured by various companies and no particular manufacturer has got monopoly over its production nor is any one banned from doing so. In fact manufacturers are welcomed to come forward in this field so that we could get away with the man-driven cycle rickshaw.

On June 17, you also announced a Deendayal scheme to provide government loans to potential buyers of battery-run rickshaws at 3% interest. Last October, you announced a similar scheme for the buyers of Purti rickshaws through your Deendayal Trust in Nagpur. Do you think announcing this scheme as a union minister raises the question of impropriety and conflict of interest?

Our ideologue Pt. Deendayala Upadhayaya propounded the philosophy of integral humanism and Antodaya (emancipation of the downtrodden). I proudly declared the e-rickshaw scheme after his name. It is our humble tribute to our great thinker.
As far as encouraging banks to provide loan to e-rickshaw owners at 3% is concerned, I have already written to the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and the Union Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley to do the needful for the welfare of the e-rickshaw drivers so they could become owners of their vehicle.
I will welcome all NGOs & social enterprisers across the country to join this campaign of promoting e-rickshaws and helping the owners to get them loans from the banks at 3%.

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  1. O
    Jul 1, 2014 at 5:13 am
    Crony capital and corruption at its best!!
    1. C
      Jul 1, 2014 at 7:06 pm
      Scams have already started.
      1. K
        Jul 1, 2014 at 3:30 am
        What would one call this decision which will benefit Gadkari's company? This is a ploy under the cover of green technologies to fill personal pockets. I thought that BJP was going to control such deals. I am disappointed. I hope Modi will control greed among his ministers who have the power to benefit themselves or their relatives through the decisions they take.
        1. M
          Mohinder Singh
          Jul 3, 2014 at 5:29 am
          I am sure our dear Prime Minister Shri Modi is not going to prima-facie like the Minister's eagerness to regularize the issue of e-rickshaws involving self interest of the Minister and his relatives. However, I personally feel the issue should be discussed in the broader national interest. We cannot shut every shop already owned by a minister or his relatives in case it is benefited by any govt venture or scheme to be started in the national interest.
          1. B
            Jul 1, 2014 at 1:34 pm
            Arey baba.. check the history of mumbai puna express way and see who was in Maharashtra govt at that time..
            1. S
              Suresh Thakur
              Jul 1, 2014 at 12:09 pm
              There are 2 Big Guns in Mahrashtra, Sharad Pawar and Respected Gadkariji! Sharad Pawar can control Onion Prices as and when required, Gadkari can control Sugar prices as per his requirements! But some time they both control onion and sugar prices! This Rikshaw thing is merely a tip on an iceberg!
              1. S
                Suresh Thakur
                Jul 1, 2014 at 12:05 pm
                Wake up! And don't make foolish comments! BJPee was neither in center nor in State, then on what authority Gadkari envisioned anything? Thanks to congress for developed Delhi and Mumbai!
                1. A
                  Jul 22, 2014 at 4:49 pm
                  He is doing what is best for us, there will be no use to ban themthanks to nitin gadhkari:www.gemev
                  1. A
                    Jul 22, 2014 at 4:52 pm
                    Since the speed is limited and almost as much as other rickshaws they are beneficial and road conditions are actually spoiled by all kind of vehicles , not e rickshaws in particular, of course they wont run without regulations at all, they are actually very safe and best for small distance transport
                    1. D
                      Jul 1, 2014 at 1:32 pm
                      Why should he?
                      1. S
                        Jul 1, 2014 at 8:54 pm
                        Agreed, instead of regulating them and issuing them numbers so that incase of accident (happening a lot) responsibility can be fixed, his family is interested on manufacturing them. BJP is selling w country, inflation is going to be 7 years high, fuel prices are increased, log is increased too, food prices are exorbitantly high, now electricity will soon increase too.
                        1. B
                          Jul 1, 2014 at 1:21 pm
                          Thanks to Indira hi, her late son Sanjay, a well-known thug in Delhi was granted the sole license to start Maruti motors and now another politician wants to benefit his family by something similar, indicating a big conflict of issues. All such things should be left for open bid with no hidden beneficiaries behind the bidders.
                          1. S
                            Jul 1, 2014 at 3:20 am
                            Mr.Gadkari should think big and try to make India the manufacturing hub for electric and hybrid cars.
                            1. T
                              Thomas George
                              Jul 1, 2014 at 6:28 am
                              All rickshaws must be pulled from the roads. A month ago, we were debating rear seat seatbelts being made mandatory. Now we are talking about making non-roadworthy vehicles being authorized to ply our roads. The government should have a deadline to remove all unsafe vehicles to be removed from our roads.
                              1. U
                                Ujwal Ujwal
                                Jul 1, 2014 at 3:14 pm
                                Behind every policy of BJPthere will be commercial interests of India Inc, Naturally each and every designin future will against common people and farmers.
                                1. H
                                  HEY RAM
                                  Jul 1, 2014 at 10:11 am
                                  I am a bit worried about traffic condition .....when traffic police is not able to chalan them.........
                                  1. V
                                    Jul 1, 2014 at 11:00 am
                                    dude ... dont just talk!!! and make foolish statements... NItin Gadkari is the man who envisioned mumbai-pune exp way , many flyover in Mumbai and other cities and got the job done... even teh mumbai skyway was envisioned by him which the center CONgress govt royally dela and later took the credit!!!! and named it like everything else by Rajiv hi skyway bridge!!
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