Hundreds of daily wage earners,whose livelihood is dependent on the use of bicycles,assembled at Chowringhee Square Wednesday to protest the ban imposed by the state government on the use of bicycles on 174 important thoroughfares in the city.
Terming it chakra satyagraha,the rally on Mahatma Gandhis birth anniversary saw daily wage earners holding banners demanding the roll back of the ban.
Agitators felt the ban on the use of bicycles cripples the lower rungs of the society who cannot afford to pay for buses and taxis. Cyclists apprehended by the Kolkata Police are fined between Rs 80 to Rs 130.
Vinod Singh who delivers newspapers on his bicycle in Bhowanipore said if a cyclist breaks traffic rules,he or she must be punished individually. Why should we suffer for somebody elses mistake? Fine us if we break rules,but do not impose a blanket ban. This is our only means of livelihood.
The protest highlighted the benefits of bicycles as a pollution-free and healthy means of transport. It also involved street theatre performances,depicting the importance of bicycles along with performances by Baul singers.
Ekta Kothari of Switch On – the NGO that galvanised the protests – said they have been trying to get in touch with the government officials,but have received no response.
We have written to government officials including CM Mamata Banerjee,but have not received any response. We also tried to speak to the state transport minister Madan Mitra who was surprised when we mentioned the ban on the use of bicycles in most parts of the city.
Milkman Abhimanyu Nayak rues the ban imposed on the use of bicycles as he is often detained by police and made to pay a fine. We barely make around Rs 220 per day and on top of that we have to pay a fine to the tune of Rs 120, he said
Apart from bicycles,cycle vans are also an integral part of each and every market in the city and the ban will result in the disruption of the markets day-to-day activities.
Om Prakash Tiwari,Joint Secretary of the Cycle Van and Hand Cart Union,said,On the one hand,the KMC has issued licenses for our trade,and on the other hand,the government has imposed a blanket ban on the use of cycles. Where are we supposed to go? Mamata herself fought for our rights in 1996 and now our pleas are falling on deaf ears.