June 27, 2011 2:20:09 am
Nearly half a decade ago,the then chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had chosen Independence Day to announce the liberation of Kolkata from the inhuman colonial practice of using hand-pulled rickshaws to ferry people.
This was in 2005. Subsequently Calcutta Hackney-Carriage Act of 1919 was amended by the Assembly dominated by the Left Front members through which it was decided that hand-pulled rickshaws will be removed in a phased manner by providing rehabilitation to the rickshaw pullers. However,hand-pulled rickshaws continued to ply on the streets as the government failed to rehabilitate a single rickshaw puller. Now,scores of hand-pulled rickshaw pullers,who still eke out a living by running barefoot,have asked the new chief minster Mamata Banerjee to repeal the amendment so that the legal status of their jobs is restored.
The previous government passed a black law. We want to tell the new CM that in an unplanned city like Kolkata,the hand-pulled rickshaw can operate and help traffic to move, said Mukhtar Ali,convenor of Hath Rickshaw Rojgaar Bachao Committee.
At present,5,935 hand-pulled rickshaws ply in the city. According to Anuradha Talwar,a social worker,the focus should be more on the rickshaw pullers instead of their owners. The number of rickshaw pullers is also decreasing as jobs under MNREGA are becoming available,and I see no reason to ban the hand-pulled rickshaws, said Talwar.
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The rickshaw pullers have been demanding a rehabilitation package for them and replacing the hand-pulled rickshaws with cycle rickshaws. But now they want the legality of their vehicles restored.
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