ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Calcutta s Rickshaw-Pullers

Calcutta's Rickshaw-Pullers ON September 28-29, a joint letter by three organisations in Calcutta, APDR (Association for the Protection of Democratic Rights), PUCL (People's Union for Civil Liberties. West Bengal), and Unnayan, and a letter of support by concerned citizens, were forwarded to the Chief Minister of West Bengal demanding a stay of the plan for seizure by police of hand-rickshaws in Calcutta due to re-start in October in a big way. The letters have pointed out that this and related plans arc causing unemployment among thousands of rick- shawpullers. The three organisations have argued that "while we share and support the government's view that traffic in Calcutta is chaotic and urgently needs planning and control, we believe that in our city, where more than half the population belongs to the poor and unorganised labour sector. there is not only need for attention to 'modernisation' but also the crucial question of how all sectors of society can benefit, rather than the 'normal' reactionary process of dispensing with the labour sector first, especially its more vulnerable parts. We believe that this is happening in the present planning for transport in Calcutta." A stay of the introduction of auto- rickshaws to the city, also planned for October, has accordingly been demanded, on the basis of an earlier letter to the Chief Minister in August where it was argued that auto-rickshaws can not possibly replace the services provided by hand-rickshaws and that their introduction, concurrently with the removal of hand-rickshaws, "militates strongly against the small man and for the big man; against cottage industry and for large industry ... [and] further biases the ownership of transport, and the possibility of ownership, towards big owners, because of the relative costs (Rs 1,000 vs Rs 20.000 plus)". The organisations have further argued that since auto-rickshaws are in addi tion likely to heavily add to Calcutta's severe problem? of pollution, noise, congestion and traffic hazard, and since they are likely to be financially even less viable than mini-buses, their introduction "is a highly reactionary step" and requires much more careful planning.

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