New Delhi: The recent death of a three-year-old child after being trampled by an e-rickshaw has raised questions on the safety of e-rickshaws plying in the city, most of which ply without any license or registration.
E-rickshaws, often seen as the best last mile connectivity solution for a resident was introduced in the city to provide easy commute to and from the nearest bus or Metro station.
With the e-rickshaws not being allowed to ply on the main roads, connectivity no doubt has become easier for a passenger to reach the Metro station. “Earlier I used to walk for a kilometer to reach the metro, but with the introduction of e-rickshaws, it hardly takes 5 minutes for me to reach the station,” said Anchal Sharma (34), a resident of Sant Nagar.
But these e-rickshaws come with their own safety flaws. Many of them have not yet registered their vehicle with transport authority. “The rickshaw cost me Rs. 1 lakh and getting a fitness certificate will now take me another Rs. 50,000. I don’t have that much money, hence I have started plying to arrange some money and get this vehicle registered,” said Rumesh Kumar (25) who plies his vehicles from Kailash Colony Metro Station.
Amritpal Singh (40) prefers taking the e-rickshaw over the traditional rickshaws. He says that e-rickshaws saves time as it is a quick ride. “Most of the drivers drive in a rash manner and we often complain that this might be dangerous,” adds Singh.
“We have restricted the movement of e-rickshaws on main roads because it leads to traffic congestions. We challan the ones which have no license but we cannot fine them with an extra challan the subsequent time since these vehicles have no registration number,” said a police officer.
Auto driver Gurdeep Singh (70) who has been driving his auto-rickshaw for over 40 years now finds these e-rickshaws a menace to the society. “These drivers have no license, no batch number and drive in a rash manner. Police also let them ply freely. They have no restriction whatsoever,” says Gurdeep.
Although the prescribed number of passengers an e-rickshaw can carry is set at four. But this rule is flouted almost every time. “We carry six passengers in the back seat and one in the front because we have to repay the loan we have taken to purchase this vehicle. So far police hasn’t caught me but I have to be careful,” says Raj Kumar (18) who plies his vehicle from Govindpuri Metro Station to the nearby places.
Most of the drivers complain that getting their e-rickshaw registered is a time taking process and involves giving bribe to the transport authorities. “I had applied for a license two months back but nothing has happened so far. I am left with no other option but to drive without a license,” says Ranjeet Kumar (27) who has already paid a fine of Rs. 600 to the traffic cops for travelling without registration.
Driving an e-rickshaw is a cheap option as the battery operated vehicle can travel 80 – 100 km in a single charge. The battery takes 6 – 8hrs to be fully charged. Many youngsters who are not even 18-years-old have come from neighbouring states and have started plying e-rickshaws in the city. These drivers usually don’t have a driver’s license and have been found to drive rashly. There needs to be strict policing to curb accidents by e-rickshaws in the future.
The author is a journalist with The Times of India and is based out of New Delhi.