Given the threat of global warming and environmental crisis facing the Mother Earth on account of increasing carbon emissions, there is a growing awareness that all countries of the world need to reduce their carbon footprint. Huge investments are being made in most First World countries to discover green, eco friendly technologies and modes of transport which are not dependent on fossil fuels. The environmental crisis in Delhi has reached alarming proportions due to the dramatic increase in the number of motorized vehicles which today number nearly 60 lakhs and are increasing by the hour.
Delhi as the capital City of India needs to lead the way in reducing air and noise pollution by encouraging the use of eco friendly, pollution free modes of transport. Cycle rickshaws are among the most cost efficient pollution and noise free vehicles which have hitherto operated in an atmosphere of severe administrative hostility because they were viewed as an unwanted relic of India’s pre-industrial past. The stated policy of the MCD as enshrined in the Cycle Rickshaw Bye-laws of 1960 was to work towards the ultimate “elimination” of cycle rickshaws.
Thus far, the municipal policy has attempted to restrict the number of rickshaws in the City by putting an unrealistic cap on the number of licenses that can be issued in Delhi and confiscating “unlicensed” rickshaws. But certain provisions of the Rickshaw Bye Laws made almost every single rickshaw “illegal” and therefore liable to confiscation and destruction of the vehicle. The failure of this policy is evident from the fact that despite the proliferation of sophisticated motorized means of transport in the City, including the coming of the Metro, cycle rickshaws have kept growing in numbers because of widespread consumer demand for their services. It is estimated that today there are nearly 600,000 rickshaws operating in Delhi. However, the disabling and discriminatory laws governing this trade have trapped the rickshaw trade in a web of illegality leading to massive corruption and routine violence inflicted on rickshaw pullers.
In addition to being eco friendly, cycle rickshaws also have the added advantage of providing an instant source of livelihood for impoverished migrants from rural areas who regularly come to Delhi in search of work. Since they come for a few months at a time, they find it convenient to rent a cycle rickshaw rather than own their own vehicle. However, the ostensibly well meaning policy of restricting issue of ownership licenses only to actual pullers has proved altogether unrealistic and corruption friendly. Even those few who wish to own their own rickshaw find it impossible to do so because the manner in which the existing Cycle rickshaw Bye laws are implemented has made it virtually impossible for a puller to get an owner/puller license, despite the stated policy of giving ownership licenses only to actual pullers.
Since the Indian Constitution protects a person’s right to earn a livelihood; forbids arbitrary confiscation of their means of earning a livelihood; forbids legislation that discriminates against a person engaged in a legitimate means of earning a livelihood, therefore, a person who transports persons and goods via cycle rickshaw cannot be subject to restrictions and penalties if the law does not apply equivalent restrictions on those who provide similar services via motorized vehicles.
A full bench of the Delhi High Court presided over by the Chief Justice has communicated to the MCD that they take serious note of the fact that the existing rickshaw policy is unconstitutional and highly discriminatory against the poor who work in this sector
In view of the above factors and the urgent need to curb air and noise pollution levels in the City, this Committee is of the view that it should be the endeavour of the MCD to discourage the use of pollution emitting, noisy motorized vehicles in Delhi and encourage the use of cycle rickshaws by:
a) Dismantling the restrictive License-Quota Regime,
b) Removing the undesirable restrictions on their operation in the City and,
c) Creating an enabling atmosphere for their use and providing separate tracks for Non Motorized Vehicles (NMVs) as extensively as possible all over the City.
Recommendations for Reform
The Committee recommends that the Delhi Municipal Corporation (Cycle Rickshaw) Bye-laws, 1960 be amended in a manner that treats cycle rickshaws as an integral part of the public transport system in Delhi. The Committee also recommends that an independent Cycle Rickshaw Use Promotion Authority (RUPA) be constituted.
RUPA will be headed by the Commissioner MCD and include the following members:
a) A retired High Court Judge,
b) Jt. Commissioner Traffic Police,
c) Representatives from Manushi;
d) Two representatives of the rickshaw owners organizations from two different zones on a rotational basis so that owners from each zone get a chance to represent the trade;
e) A representatives of rickshaw pullers’ union/s;
f) Two reputed urban planners/ architects who are committed to making road space available for cycle rickshaws on city roads;
g) An IT expert to mentor the implementation of the new rickshaw policy and Rickshaw Puller Welfare Schemes using cutting edge technology;
h) Representative of bank/banks that provide micro saving and micro credit facilities to rickshaw pullers and micro owners;
i) A traffic management expert, who is not from the police.
j) A representative from RWAs and a representative of market associations;
k) A public spirited citizen/journalist, who is committed to promotion of cycle rickshaws in the City.
RUPA will have all legal powers necessary to enforce its decisions to oversee the implementation of the following reforms in Cycle Rickshaw Bye-laws of 1960.
At present two kinds of registrations are required for plying a cycle rickshaw:
a) Registration of the cycle rickshaw in the name of the owner.
b) Registration of a puller who intends to ply a rickshaw.
At present a person is eligible to ply a cycle rickshaw if he possesses an ownership license as well as a puller’s license and is himself the puller of his vehicle. These two licenses need to be de-linked. A puller need not necessarily own the vehicle he plies and an owner should be free to rent out his vehicle to any puller he desires.
I .New Registration Procedures for Cycle Rickshaws Ownership
a. Any person may own a cycle rickshaw or a fleet of rickshaws in Delhi for carrying passengers or carting goods by a simple act of registration of each of his/her vehicles with the office of the Deputy Commissioner of the municipal zone in which the said rickshaw owner resides or the area in which he operates his rickshaw yard.
b. There shall be no quota limiting the numbers of cycle rickshaws that can be registered, or the number of cycle rickshaw puller licenses issued. These numbers shall be solely determined by the public demand for the services of rickshaws as reflected in the willingness of owners to register their purchase of rickshaws and the willingness of pullers to apply for a license.
c. The forms for registration of vehicles and for license applications for pullers shall be available without payment of a fee and shall be processed by MCD staff year round on all the working days of the MCD and will be valid for a period of three years from the date of issue. These forms will also be available for download on the MCD/ RUPA website.
d. The registration will be granted within a maximum of two days from the date of application on payment of a reasonable amount not to exceed 5% of the cost of a new rickshaw as an annual fee. RUPA may be periodically required to adjust the fee to conform with the 5% rule from time to time.
e. If the license is not granted within a week, it would be deemed to have been granted and the receipt of the application will be treated as a license.
f. If an owner sells off his vehicle, it is incumbent on the new owner to get the vehicle registered in his/her own name. Failure to do so will invite penalties similar to those for unlicensed rickshaws.
g. Unlicensed rickshaws may be confiscated only after the new policy has been put into operation. The unlicensed rickshaw would be released after the owner gets it registered by paying the thrice the amount of registration fee. In case of stolen rickshaws, the vehicle will be released by following the due process through the police.
h. It would be incumbent upon the MCD to inform rickshaw owners of the provisions of the new policy by the following means of outreach:
i) Advertisements in all major Hindi newspapers of Delhi;
ii) Large billboards placed in each MCD zonal office;
iii) Website of MCD.
II. New Registration Procedures for Rickshaw Pullers
i) A person who does not own his/her own rickshaw may apply to be registered as a puller in any of the 12 municipal zones of the MCD. This registration will be valid for plying a rickshaw in any of the 12 zones in Delhi.
ii) The puller’s registration will be valid for pulling a passenger rickshaw as well as a trolley rickshaw for carting goods.
iii) The registration for plying a rickshaw will be open year round and will be valid for a period of three years from the date of issue.
iv) A Puller shall be granted registration on demand within a day on payment of a fixed fee of Rs 50. This fee may be revised from time to time by RUPA or the Commissioner MCD on the basis of changes in the earning capacity and cost of living of pullers.
v) A registered puller shall be issued a Photo Identity Card with his/her left thumb mark as proof of registration.
vi) While issuing the pullers’ Photo I Card, it will be the duty of the license issuing authority to ensure that the applicant views a well designed video recorded training module regarding the traffic regulations of Delhi. In addition, the MCD will work together with the Traffic Police of that zone to create Traffic Training Parks for non motorized vehicle drivers, especially cycle rickshaw pullers.
III. Specifications for Rickshaws and Improvements in Technology
Given the pathetic state of cycle rickshaw technology at present, there is urgent need to improve the rickshaw technology so that it does not put excessive strain on the rickshaw pullers and makes rickshaw pulling more dignified. Since the single most important reason behind the technological deterioration of cycle rickshaws is the existing policy of discouraging this trade through frequent confiscation drives and destruction of the seized vehicles, the MCD henceforth bans the practice of destruction of cycle rickshaws following their confiscation.
In addition, RUPA will seek the cooperation of the Ministry of Science and Technology to support its efforts in improving cycle rickshaw technology to make it world class. It will also work with and motivate the rickshaw trade to improve the technology of the vehicle through its own innovations in order to make the vehicle less strenuous for the puller to ply, to promote greater comfort for the commuter and to make the vehicle aesthetic enough to restore its status as “Art on Wheels” –as many of our traditional bullock carts, tongas, carriages used to be.
While the much needed technological improvements start taking place, in the interim period, cycle rickshaw shall conform to the following specifications:
a. Minimum width over-all: 3ft 9 inches
b. Length: 8 ft -10 inches.
c. Height of rickshaw on wheels excluding the over head shade (head): 36 inches
d. Width of seat: Not less than 29 inches provided that this requirement shall not apply to old cycle rickshaws already existing before the commencement of the cycle rickshaw (amendment, Bye Laws 1993)
e. Leg room for passengers: Minimum1 feet, 9 inches
The cycle rickshaw shall be in good order and repair in all parts. The cycle rickshaw shall be painted, marked or otherwise made identifiable in such manner and of such pattern as may be decided by RUPA from time to time Each registered cycle rickshaw shall be liable to pay such charges as may be determined by the Commissioner from time to time or by an officer designated by him in this behalf which shall generally be the actual cost incurred to maintain roadworthiness of the vehicle.
The impression or marking, which is affixed thereon by the Commissioner or by an authorized officer, shall not be removed, altered, defaced or obliterated. If the number becomes defaced or obliterated, the cycle rickshaw, in question shall be brought to the Deputy Commissioner’s office or his/her authorized officer, who may order the mark/impression or number to be repainted or remarked by paying such charges again.
The cycle rickshaw shall be painted with a serial number on payment of Rs 20 in such a manner and of such pattern as the Commissioner may decide in any particular year. The number which is affixed on the cycle rickshaw shall not be removed, altered defaced or obliterated. If the number becomes defaced or obliterated, the cycle rickshaw in question shall be brought before the Deputy Commissioner who may order the number to be repainted on payment of painting charges at Rs 20.
IV. Maximum number of persons and weight to be carried in a cycle Rickshaw:
Not more than 2 persons shall be carried in a registered cycle rickshaw. Two children under 12 years of age shall be counted as one person, but children below 3 years shall not be counted. However, specially designed rickshaws for transporting school children may carry the number of children for which safe seats have been provided in covered rickshaws.
V. Photo Identity Cards for Rickshaw Pullers
(1) Every driver of a registered cycle rickshaw shall wear his/her Photo Identity Card issued to him by the MCD/RUPA in a prominent place visible to the public.
(2) Every driver of a licensed cycle rickshaw shall return his/her old Identity Card to the Commissioner at the time of renewal of his license or if he/she ceases to work as a puller.
(3) The Puller’s registration and I Card is non transferable and cannot be loaned or given to another puller.
(4) In case of loss of Photo I Card, the MCD will provide a new I card within a day on payment of Rs 50 processing fee.
VI. Mode of Registration for Rickshaw Owners
1) The number of rickshaws is in direct proportion to the population density and the customer footfall in any area. Their cost convenience makes them the preferred mode of travel for middle and lower class citizens of consumers leading to high demand for their services in most parts of the City. Therefore, any attempts to limit the number of rickshaws in an area by government fiat is bound to fail, and can only lead to violence, corruption and exploitation. MCD’s endeavour shall now be focused on promoting the use of eco friendly cycle rickshaws, rather than eliminating them, as was the aim and purpose of the earlier regulations in the Rickshaw Bye-Laws of 1960. Therefore, there shall be no quota for registration of cycle rickshaws.
VII. Access to City Roads
The MCD shall implement the guidelines of the Master Plan for Delhi, 2021 which mandates that as a non energy consuming and non polluting mode of transport, the use of cycle rickshaws should be encouraged, legitimated and promoted in pursuance of Para 12.6 of the Delhi Master Plan 2021 through the following means:
1) On all arterial roads fully segregated cycle tracks should be provided with provision for safe parking and ride lots.
2) In urban extensions, cycle tracks should be provided at the sub-arterial and local level roads and streets.
3) In crowded urban areas with poor roads such as the Walled City, Chandni Chowk, Sadar Bazar, Karol Bagh, Lajpat Nagar and parts of Trans Yamuna, the use of cycle rickshaws as a preferred means of non motorized transport should be promoted along with pedestrianization;
4) Given that cycle rickshaws have emerged as the most important feeder service for Delhi’s Metro, the RUPA will work with the Metro authorities to make provisions for rickshaw parking around all Metro Stations in all the 12 municipal zones of Delhi so that the pullers do not have to pay bribes and suffer indignities at the hands of Traffic Police for meeting consumer demand for commutes to Metro Stations.
5) RUPA shall commission the services of appropriate professionals to design and build model cycle rickshaw tracks as part of development works being taken under the aegis of the National Urban Renewal Mission.
VIII. Provision of Halting Points and Repair Facilities
The following measures will be undertaken to create a rickshaw friendly atmosphere in the City and protect the pullers from police violence:
1) RUPA shall undertake a photo census of cycle rickshaws operating in Delhi through an independent agency to arrive at a reliable estimate of the number and areas of operation of rickshaws plying at present in Delhi in order to make realistic and adequate provision for rest and parking points for cycle rickshaws. This task shall be completed in a time bound manner as part of preparing Delhi for the Commonwealth Games. Such a census will be repeated every three years to have a realistic picture of their growth pattern.
2) Adequate space will be earmarked in non congested areas for use by rickshaw fleet owners and individual pullers to park their rickshaws at night and to set up repair workshops. These rickshaw yards will be well designed spaces with neat and sturdy paving so that they do not appear as eye sores to the general public. It will be mandatory for rickshaw owners to maintain a high level of cleanliness in the assigned yards, failing which they may have to pay penalties as decided by RUPA.
3) Rickshaw owners will only have usufruct rights to this space. They will be treated as tenants of the civic authority, not as owners. Rickshaw yard operators will be allowed to build nothing more than a temporary shed of the dimensions, size and design decided by RUPA. RUPA will finalize the design after due consultations with rickshaw yard owners.
4) At the time of registration, rickshaw owners will be required to pay an yearly fee towards day parking charges as fixed by RUPA which may revise this fee periodically depending on the earning potential of the rickshaws in that particular area.
5) Clean drinking water and shade will be provided by the MCD at such day halting lots. MCD will also provide space for tea stalls and cooked food vendors for the convenience of pullers.
6) MCD will provide space for pay and use toilets around all major parking lots.
IX. Deposit of Lost Property
Property left in a cycle rickshaw shall be deposited at the earliest by the puller at the nearest Police Station. The Police Station will be required to issue specific receipts to the pullers for such deposits.
X. Observance of Traffic Rules and Civic Discipline
a) RUPA will ensure that the Traffic Police in each municipal zone will create Traffic Training Parks for introducing rickshaw owners and pullers, cyclists and other non motorized vehicles to the city’s traffic rules as part of the Skill Enhancement Mission of the Central Government. These Parks will also include information about separate rickshaw tracks and select prohibited zones for rickshaws.
b) RUPA will ensure that viewer friendly videos explaining traffic rules are provided to each rickshaw fleet owner at the time of registration of rickshaws.
c) It will be mandatory for rickshaw fleet owners to make this video available for viewing at the rickshaw yard on a daily basis since rickshaw pulling as an occupation witnesses new recruits every day. Fleet owners shall pay a penalty of Rs 500 if they do not have this facility available at the rickshaw yards.
d) This video will also be made available in all the night shelters for regular viewing.
e) “No Entry” signs in select prohibited zones as per the Guidelines laid down by RUPA in consultation with the Traffic Police will be prominently displayed at the beginning of each such road. These prohibited areas must be in tune with the mandate of the Delhi Master Plan 2021.
g) Penalties for traffic violations will be made operational only after all the above measures have been institutionalized.
h) The puller will be required to pay an on-the-spot fine of Rs 50 in case he/she jumps the red light, is found plying on the wrong side of the road or moving on the track meant for fast moving motorized vehicles.
j) In case the traffic offence is committed by an owner puller who is unwilling or unable to pay the on the spot fine, the Traffic Police will detain the vehicle for one day in the police station. The loss of a day’s income shall be treated as appropriate penalty for the traffic offence.
k) The rickshaw will not be confiscated for traffic violation nor the owner who is not a puller penalized for a violation committed by the puller.
l) The use of violence by the police to discipline pullers must be avoided; RUPA will work with Traffic Police Department to sensitize police personnel in traffic management techniques without the use of violence and abuse.
m) CCTV cameras will be installed in all crowded markets on a priority footing to monitor the functioning of the Traffic Police in enforcing road discipline among rickshaw pullers.
n) The Grievance Cell set up by RUPA will follow up all genuine complaints alleging violence, threat and extortion by the police or any other person or authority.
o) The Grievance Cell shall also take up complaints of illegal detention of pullers by the police on the eve of national events and major festivals as part of its “security drives” as is currently the case.
XI. Welfare Schemes for Rickshaw Pullers
a) RUPA shall also make arrangements that the I Card issued to rickshaw pullers can also be used as a Smart Card for a free comprehensive health check up at one of its health centers, a comprehensive health, accident and life insurance for a monthly fee of Rs. 30 to be paid by the puller. MCD will accept the residential proof from the puller’s native town or village for issuing the I Card.
b) RUPA will make arrangements with a reputed private or nationalized bank to enable each registered rickshaw puller to open a savings account by using the I Card issued by the MCD as proof of identity. The selected banks will be urged to enable the pullers to deposit their daily earnings in the bank at a specially assigned counter for micro savings. The bank will be advised to make arrangements for the puller to pay for his monthly insurance policy direct from his account. The banks will also provide micro credit to pullers at a reasonable rate of interest, especially if they wish to purchase their own vehicle.
c) In addition to enabling rickshaw pullers to access existing health facilities, RUPA will extend the benefits of the National Health Mission to rickshaw pullers by working in partnership with credible NGOs and private health sector institutions to create a quality Mobile Health Service for rickshaw pullers at the rickshaw yards from where rickshaw owners operate their fleets. This is urgently required given the generally poor health status of rural migrants who work as rickshaw pullers and the difficulty the poor have in getting quality health care from the existing services and the time constraints they face as daily wage earners.
d) RUPA will make it a high priority task to provide clean night shelters with arrangements for bathing and healthy recreation for rickshaw pullers so that they do not have to sleep on the pavements or on the vehicles they ply thus exposing them to the elements and making them more vulnerable to illness and exploitation and robbery by anti social elements. It will be the endeavour of RUPA to involve credible NGOs, private philanthropists and social work organizations in managing these night shelters so that they do not get taken over for anti social activities.
XII. Rickshaw Pullers’ Welfare Fund
a) A person who owns more than one rickshaw and rents out the vehicle on hire will be required to contribute the equivalent of a day’s rental charge per vehicle per month towards the Rickshaw Welfare Fund (RWF) which will be managed by the independent Rickshaw Use Promotion Authority (RUPA) for subsidizing health and insurance services for the pullers.
b) Each Puller who registers with the MCD will also contribute Rs. 30 per month to this Welfare Fund to avail of the health services as mentioned above.
d) RUPA will maintain total transparency in the utilization of Rickshaw Welfare Fund. It will be mandatory for RUPA to specifically list the particulars of all contributions and expenditures from this account on its publicly accessible website.
e) RUPA will hold at least six consultations every year with representatives of pullers and owners, representatives of RWAs and market associations from all the 12 Zones of MCD.
f) RUPA will set up an empowered Grievance Redressal Cell to deal with the complaints pullers and owners of rickshaws, especially those relating to human rights abuses and violence by the police and other agencies.