June 21: A group of IIT graduates in the remote south-western Punjab city of Fazilka are celebrating the success of the eco-cab — a new ergonomically designed cycle-rickshaw launch as part of an unprecedented, environmentally friendly public transport service in June 2008.
Mr Navdeep Asija, a young design engineer, and his colleagues who helped launch Fazilka's eco-cabs as part of a community service programme said a number of initiatives have now been included to make the service sustainable.
"All rickshaw pullers who opted for the new eco-cabs have been insured for Rs 50,000 each. They have also been given access to free medical care in five privately-run hospitals in the city," he said adding that as further incentive, "we are offering free education to the 10 brightest children of the eco-cab pilots (rickshaw pullers)."
Much like radio-cab services in bigger cities but completely non-polluting, the eco-cab service was launched with a single call centre in the centre of town where rickshaw pullers respond to calls from prospective customers.
Today there are multiple call centres and the average call rate is happily rising. "We are up from about 20 to 35 calls per day," Mr Asija said.
Joining in the determined venture, Fazilka's municipal council recently chipped in with permanent sheds with proper drinking water arrangement for rickshaw pullers at all the eco-cab call centres.
Mr Asija and his friends say they want to change the face of their city. "People who see our city must wish they had also been brought up on the water of Fazilka," says a single line that seeks to sum it all on the design engineer's blog.