While there have been some significant breakthroughs as a result of our campaign on behalf of street vendors, the cycle rickshaw sector stays caught in a stalemate. Confiscation and seizure of rickshaws by the police in collaboration with the municipal staff continues unabated. Bribes, beatings, and extortion have not stopped. Even our petition to the High Court, demanding that the new policy announced by the Prime Minister be implemented, has not made much headway. One important reason for this stalemate is that the government policies have created powerful vested interests, not only among the police and corporation officials who benefit from the restrictions imposed on the rickshaw sector but also among a section of rickshaw operators who are derisively called as thekedars. The following account provides a glimpse into the role of rickshaw fleet owners, the pressures under which they function, and how a few among them have been converted into middlemen or dalaals between the police, corporation officials and the ordinary rickshaw owners and pullers. It also shows the tremendous grit and entrepreneurial spirit of even the poor and illiterate in India. It reveals their desire for upward mobility and their initiative in exploring all possible avenues for moving out of poverty despite all the hurdles placed in their way by the government. Their fairly typical life stories also provide insights into how a very socialist or pro-poor sounding slogan and policy is actually designed to be an instrument of extortion.
Click to read the full article, When Victims Are Defamed : The Interdependence of Rickshaw Pullers and Owners