Lucknow: It is a double whammy for Nayeem Akhtar. His e-rickshaw, the only source of livelihood in the last nine years, could be impounded by the bank at any moment following the Lucknow Municipal Corporation’s (LMC) sudden ban on battery-operated rickshaws on 11 prominent routes in the state capital.
After Akhtar, the sole breadwinner of a family of eight, could not pay the EMIs on time during the lockdown, bank agents have been threatening to confiscate his vehicle. According to him, the livelihood of more than 3 lakh drivers is at stake.
The LMC banned e-rickshaws on 11 prominent routes, including Hazratganj, Gomtinagar, Indiranagar and Alambagh, on May 12 citing air pollution, traffic and public security.
“To improve the management of traffic in the city of Lucknow, it has been decided to revise the guidelines using provisions under Section 115 of Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, Rule 178 of Uttar Pradesh Motor Vehicle Rules, 1998, for plying of electric rickshaws in 11 routes in the city,” reads the notification, undersigned by the city commissioner DK Thakur.
The traffic police and the police would take action if e-rickshaws are found on the designated routes, Thakur said in a statement.
More than 80% of e-rickshaw drivers purchase the vehicles with bank loans which they repay gradually. Several of them could not pay the EMIs due to the lockdown.
“The agents of the bank harassed us for not paying the instalment on time during the lockdown. When things became normal, we worked round the clock to repay the remaining instalments. The ban would bring us on road,” Akhtar tells Newsclick. “Where would we go? What sort of work will we do?
This is not the first time that restrictions have been imposed on the movement of e-rickshaws in the city. In 2018, e-rickshaws were banned on 36 routes with subsequent restrictions imposed on another 10.
Kamlesh, who plies his e-rickshaw between Hazratganj and Burlington Chauraha, is also disappointed with the decision. Kamlesh migrated to Lucknow from his hometown of Kushinagar, almost 370 km far, to work so that he could feed his family. After managing to buy an e-rickshaw in instalments, he is worried about paying them.
“The government seems to have little sympathy for the poor or else why would they put us through further misery. We were already suffering due to the fall in income during the pandemic,” says a distraught Kamlesh.
“I bought my rickshaw some three years back for Rs 1.5 lakh. I still have to pay Rs 62,000 to the bank. I earn Rs 500-Rs700 per day after working for 7-9 hours out of which I have to pay the instalments and send money to my family for buying ration,” Kamlesh adds asking, “How would I manage now?”
E-rickshaw pullers questioned the decision with various companies manufacturing different e-vehicles giving lucrative offers. “When the government had decided to ban e-rickshaws, why companies are trapping the poor by producing multiple designs of electric vehicles. Is it possible to manufacture without government consent? This drama should stop when driving an e-rickshaw is not allowed,” Kanhaiya tells Newsclick.
E-rickshaw drivers are gearing up for a strike next week to make sure their voice is heard. “We are planning a march next week. If the government is not willing to hear us, we will hit the streets because we don’t have any other option left,” says Subrat, who plies between Kamta Shaheed Path Tiraha and Shaheed Path Mod.
Subrat further said that most of the drivers do not have savings and snatching their livelihood is “not fair”. “We don’t have savings. We earn on a day-to-day basis. A day’s earnings are spent on the same day’s meal. Since the ban was ordered, we are without work,” he said adding that the “administration and the police harassing them. We were often beaten up by the police in the name of violating traffic rules”.
E-rickshaw drivers demanded a ban on cars on these 11 routes citing the traffic jams caused by them.