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Coming to a museum: Evolution of rickshaws

The Punjab tourism department is planning to set up a museum to showcase the “evolution” of rickshaws during the past 130 years since they have been around in India.

The Punjab tourism department is planning to set up a museum to showcase the “evolution” of rickshaws during the past 130 years since they have been around in India. The museum will be one of its kind as there is no single museum in the world solely dedicated to this eco-friendly,human powered means of transport.

The initiative to set up the museum has been taken up by the department in collaboration with Graduate Welfare Association Fazilka (GWAF),which has pioneered the eco-cab movement in the state. The GWAF’s eco-cab is an improvement upon the traditional rickshaw,and is about 20 kgs lighter. Now,the department is scouting for the land to set up the museum.

Punjab Principal Secretary Tourism Geetika Kalha told The Indian Express that one of the places considered by the department for the museum is Baggi Khana at Kapurthala. She said it has the right kind of environs for the museum,but is under the jurisdiction of Police Department. If the department is not able to get space here,it may then choose Amritsar to house the museum. The holy city,which is a major tourist destination,is also one of the major rickshaw manufacturing-and-assembling hubs in north India.

According to the proposal submitted by GWAF for the project,the museum will have three major sections. The display section will trace the evolution of rickshaws from hand-pulled models to the latest ecocabs. More than 25 models of rickshaws shall be displayed here.

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The photo gallery will exhibit historic pictures related to rickshaws,like Mahatma Gandhi’s visit to the Shimla convention on a rickshaw. The third section,the literature section,will display books and contain CDs of movies which majorly featured rickshaws,with audio-visual aids.

Navdeep Asija,secretary of GWAF,said globally,there is now more and more interest in this environment-friendly,sustainable transport. “Rickshaw has been part of our collective heritage. We must acknowledge its growth and socio-economic value through such initiatives,” he said.

Heritage rickshaws for the project will be sourced by Delhi-based rickshaw-manufacturer Sandeep Arora. Modern factories now churn out about 20 rickshaws in a day. Arora,whose father was in the same business,recalls the time when it would take a month to make a rickshaw,with all the woodwork and the artwork. Arora has managed to get two 70-year-old rickshaws from Shashi Bhushan Sharma,whose father used to run the Sevak Cycle-Rickshaw Cooperative Industrial Society in Delhi in 1960. “At that time,there were only about 850 rickshaws in the whole of Delhi,and rickshaw tyres were provided on ration cards. Many years ago,I had dismantled and kept two of these rickshaws for the sake of nostalgia. I will happily give them for the museum,” said Sharma.

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Arora plans to source other models from Meerut,Kolkata,Moradabad and other old cities,through his trade network. “As far as possible,we will try to get the originals,and where it is not possible,make a copy,” he said.

First published on: 02-04-2011 at 12:56:07 am
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