http://summeronwinterlane.com/tag/holiday-gift-guide/ Unlike many other of his ilk, 55-year-old Bhola, an e-rickshaw driver in Trilok Puri, east Delhi, has few complaints in life. Three-and-a-half years ago, the Delhi government launched electric rickshaws as an environment-friendly mode of short-distance transport. Bhola, then a pedal rickshaw-puller, was among the first few in his slum cluster to opt for the new vehicle.
In hindsight, I consider it was the best decision of my life to switch to e-rickshaw. I realized that I wasn’t getting any younger, and there were three children – two girls and one boy – to feed and educate at home. I mined all my savings and borrowed locally to raise ₹86,000 for the vehicle.
On the first day, I found it difficult to manage its speed and manoeuvrability but in a couple of days, I got the hang of it. The rigour of pulling and pedalling was gone while my income more than doubled. The summer is the worst time for a pedal rickshaw-puller but now the routine is comfortable.
I start my day at 8 in the morning. Every afternoon I go to my house for lunch and a siesta for two hours. After that I get the vehicle charged for ₹120 for the evening ahead. Once the batteries are charged, the vehicle can run for six hours straight. I drive slow and cautiously but there are others— actually many many others, who drive e-rickshaws very rashly. Most of them don’t own their vehicles and ply on a rental basis. They indeed are a nuisance. But to be fair to them, every extra commuter and an extra trip means an extra buck.
In my colony, nearly everybody wants to own an e-rickshaw. Some have left regular security guard jobs to run an e-rickshaw. For, the money is good. I earn about ₹500 daily. This when I take it pretty easy; others may be making plenty more. Hence, there is competition around busy routes, shopping sites and at Metro stations.
There is a flood of e-rickshaws on the road nowadays. I have heard that on busy routes, where e-rickshaws operate with bulk commuters, they are managed by their own ‘leaders’ who not only manage discipline and turns of the drivers but also dole out regular tip to the local cops. I prefer to stay off from such a rush. I have never paid a single penny to a policeman in my three years of riding.
Owning an e-rickshaw also means I have to pay for the upkeep. Most often, its tyres are very fragile. Then there is the wear and tear on its metal body, as well maintenance of the batteries. Yet, I would say I have little to complain about.
I came to Delhi in the 1990s from Bulandshahr in western Uttar Pradesh. I often talk to my wife about our struggle in the village and in Delhi. This e-rickshaw has changed all that. I have begun to save for a rainy day. I have more time to spend with my family and there are no debts due. I have made peace with my life.
-With editorial assistance from Lokmarg