Cycle Rickshaw came to India about 100 years ago. For short distances, it is a economical means of transport. In the present scenario, when safe guarding the ecosystem from pollution is the top most priority, rickshaws are pollution free mode of transport.
This source of earning for poor has undergone a tremendous change. From normal, heavy rickshaw, its design has now been changed into a lighter version. These are called eco-friendly rickshaws.
Graduates Welfare Association of Fazilka (GWAF), a border town in Punjab, had conceptualised the idea of such rickshaws couple of years ago and is now working in the interest of the environment as well as the public in cooperation with some other NGOs and the state govt. These rickshaws have been christened as eco-cabs. These are lighter in weight, more efficient and sturdy.
Now, besides being eco friendly mode of transport, such cabs can be called on phone, like a taxi, at couple of places in Punjab,
More than 1,000 eco-cabs are presently plying in Fazilka, Patiala, Amritsar and a few other districts in the state. Out of these districts, call-a rickshaw facilitiy is available in Fazilka and Patiala. Sangrur would also provide this facilitiy soon.
The General Secretary of GWAF, Navdeep Asija told AIR that besides conceptualizing this idea, the health of eco-cab drivers or rickshaw pullers has also been taken care of. The association has tied up with ten private doctors in Fazilka for providing free medical treatment to them.
Some medical stores have also been tied-up for providing discounted medicines at Fazilka and Patiala also.
What's more, in Amritsar and Patiala, these people will double up as tourist guides.
A programme to train them in etiquette, behavioural skills and expertise required to be a tourist guide is said to be on the anvil. To avoid exploitation of rickshaw pullers in financing their rickshaw, some state banks are providing finances on less interest rates as compared to private financers.
The uniqueness of the concept has lured the UT administration of Chandigarh in exploring possibilities of starting the project in the city beautiful also.
Taking a suo-motto notice, Punjab and Haryana High Court had directed the Haryana Government also to launch the light-weight, eco-friendly rickshaws in its cities.
After all the hard work in making this idea click, the Graduates Welfare Association Fazilka (GWAF) has been awarded with the National Urban Mobility Award-2011 by the Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India for promoting the cycle rickshaw as a para-transit means of transporat.
The award was presented by the Union Minister of the Urban Development Kamal Nath on December 6th at the concluding day ceremony of the fourth Urban Mobility India Conference-2011 in New Delhi.
By: Rajesh C. Bali, AIR Correspondent, Jalandhar