Monday, October 4, 2010

Eco-friendly rickshaws to give passengers a musical ride-Fazilka Ecocab Experiment

Chandigarh. Indian Express, 3rd October 2010,
Rajni Shaleen Chopra

To be launched this year, new rickshaws will have FM radio, seatbelt, first-aid box, reading material, dustbin and fire extinguisher

The new Amritsar rickshaw, which will be launched in the holy city within this year, is going to offer passengers a musical ride. In a first-of-its-kind feature, the rickshaw will be fitted with a small FM radio on the roof, with the control panel for the channels within easy reach of passengers. In addition, it has also been provided with a seat belt for the comfort of small children or aged persons who may use the rickshaw.

The humble rickshaw has caught the fancy of civic developers in Punjab. The lightweight version of the environment-friendly transport is one of the pet projects of Punjab Tourism and the district administration of Amritsar. And Patiala Foundation, an NGO based in the aristocratic city of Punjab, is readying to launch the 'Patiala Green Cab', with plans to introduce the dial-a-rickshaw facility in the city.

Meanwhile, 10 Amritsar rickshaws designed and made by a Delhi-based firm reached the holy city today. The back canopy of the rickshaw has been given the shape of the arch of Khalsa College. The arch is a major feature of Sikh architecture. Deputy Commissioner Amritsar K S Pannu told The Indian Express that with the help of the Red Cross, the district administration is identifying the 10 rickshaw-pullers who will be given new rickshaws manufactured for the city.

"The lightweight rickshaws that we will introduce in the city will be functionally better and will have an aesthetic appeal too. People will start demanding these rickshaws, and we want the local manufacturers to start making more and more of these for the city," he said.

Sandeep Arora, the Delhi-based manufacturer of these rickshaws, said that he has provided a first-aid box, space for keeping newspapers or magazines, and a small dustbin on the side so that passengers do not litter the city roads. A small fire-extinguisher has been provided too. Navdeep Asija, who has been actively working with the Amritsar administration on this project, added that the colour of the new Amritsar rickshaw is green, to reflect that it is an environment-friendly vehicle.
Arora stated that while the cost of the lightweight rickshaw in Delhi is Rs 8,000, the Amritsar rickshaw may be priced about 15 per cent higher because of the added features. Punjab Principal Secretary (Tourism) Geetika Kalha told The Indian Express that while the budget for the new rickshaw is Rs 7,000 to Rs 15,000, it would be better if the cost worked out closer to the bottom level, so that it would be easy for the rickshaw-puller to repay the loan taken from the bank to buy it.

Meanwhile, the Patiala Foundation is working on the introduction of the green cab in the city. Foundation General Secretary Ravee Aahluwalia told The Indian Express that the dial-a-rickshaw facility will be introduced in October. "We have divided the city into 12 zones for the purpose. We are talking to banks for micro-financing of the lightweight rickshaws that we want to introduce here. But our welfare measures will extend to all rickshaw-pullers," he said.

On the pattern of the work done in Fazilka, the Patiala Foundation has decided to issue identity cards to all rickshaw-pullers. Aahluwalia said that tie-ups have been made with doctors to offer free consultancy and subsidised treatment facility to rickshaw-pullers. "Our effort is to work for the benefit of the rickshaw-pullers. We also want to offer an organised, efficient service to the residents of the city so that we are able to reduce both pollution and congestion on roads," said Aahluwalia.

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