Friday, June 10, 2011

Punjab cycles ahead on eco-cab project

Ludhiana and Sangrur to launch the new light-weight rickshaws by month-end

While Haryana and the Chandigarh Administration are still taking baby steps where the eco-cab project is concerned, Punjab is going strong. At Fazilka, Amritsar and Patiala, the lightweight, eco-friendly rickshaws are gaining in popularity, with Ludhiana and Sangrur all set to join the bandwagon.

Taking suo moto cognizance of a report on eco-cabs published in The Indian Express, The Punjab and Haryana High Court had directed Haryana, Punjab and Chandigarh to introduce these light-weight rickshaws in their respective areas. These rickshaws are called eco-cabs because they do not use any wood, and are made of hollow steel pipes. Since they weigh only 65-70 kg, it is much easier for the rickshaw puller to pull them. The traditional model weighs 90-95 kg.

In Haryana, only the Panchkula Municipal Corporation has made some headway by setting up a committee to study the eco-cabs and submit its report. Chandigarh has begin initial work on the project too, but Punjab has taken a clear lead in the region.

Deputy Commissioner (DC) Ludhiana Rahul Tiwari and DC Sangrur Kumar Rahul say the eco-cabs will be launched in their respective areas by the end of this month. To ensure that rickshaw-pullers they are comfortable with the new model, the DCs in both these cities have actively involved the local rickshaw associations, and ensured 'test rides' to get their feedback. Tie-ups have been made with banks to finance these rickshaws at only four per cent rate of interest.

Talking to The Indian Express, Tiwari said that 15 eco-cabs will be launched in the second half of June. "Rickshaw pullers pay a daily rent of Rs 20 to the owner for pulling the rickshaw. With the bank finance, the daily cost will come down to Rs 6, and within four years, they will also own the rickshaw," he said. "Later, we will try to get advertisements for the side panels of these eco-cabs, which will enable the rickshaw puller to pay back his loan faster," he said.

Amritsar has about 80 eco-cabs on the roads, and Deputy Commissioner KS Pannu said the rickshaw pullers also earn from advertisements on the side panels.

Sangrur is also ready to launch 20 eco-cabs within this month. "The rickshaw association was happy to learn about the bank finance, and how it will bring down their costs," said DC Kumar Rahul. At both Ludhiana and Sangrur, members of the rickshaw association were shown three-four models of eco-cabs. The changes suggested by them will be communicated to the manufacturer.

Users wary

In Ludhiana, rickshaw-pullers are apprehensive about the eco-cab on two counts. One, they say they make additional money at night by loading and delivering goods on it from the railway station and other places. Since the eco-cab has no space at the back, it cuts their earnings. Second, they fear that these lightweight rickshaws may topple after a bump or two on the busy city roads, which the sturdy traditional model can well weather. Officials have assured them that these eco-cabs are running successfully where they have been launched, and have urged them to experiment with these much-lighter rickshaws

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