In December 2007, before I left Delhi , Mr. Surender Mandal, my cycle rickshaw walla, used to wait at my residential colony gate, Vardhaman Society, (in Mayur Vihar-1 Extension) to take me to my office in Noida Film city. Long after I quit the job and left there, my office colleagues at World Association for Small and Medium Enterprises (WASME) used to tell me that Mr. Mandal waited in front of the gate on his cycle rickshaw, day in day out, not knowing I had gone.
On my return to Delhi recently, I made it a point to go to Mayur Vihar, where I met Mr. Mandal. Sadly, with the Metro Railway and the police – MCD combine becoming stricter, his business is not as brisk as usual. What is worse, the field right across the National Highway and the road connecting Delhi and Noida where he stays, is soon to be taken up for Commonwealth Games programs and related beautification. For those like Mandal, their only source of livelihood is under threat and might even be done away with completely as hurdles to the traffic modernisation process.
For a long time now, the Delhi government has been working with a slogan called “Clean and Green Delhi”. Unfortunately, many of its actions for attaining that objective has nothing to do with Green Delhi. Not much success could be attained, just for instance, in its Muncipal Waste Management programme.
It would also seem that in the name of the Commonwealth games extravaganza, a lot of money is being wasted and misused. For instance buildings in Connaught Place are being chipped and re-plastered for getting a brand new look. What purpose does that serve? Is that some thing really needed? Not only is it a waste of resources and money, it is also putting a question mark on the genuineness of Delhi government's Green Delhi campaign.
Green Delhi is not just planting some trees here and there and converting few vehicles into C N G. If money being spent for re-plastering of CP buildings used for making some improvements in eco- friendly cycle rickshaws, for a better design, for a welfare scheme for rickshaw wallahas or by introducing solar powered cycle rickshaws and separate lanes for them would have made much more sense.
That would have been a much more meaningful environmental policy, leading towards a greener Delhi. But on the contrary, there are already strict restrictions on their movements. One could see instruction-boards even on sub-highways of NCR (National Capital Territory) just for instance even in Noida, which is part of State UP ruled by BSP, that cycle rickshaws are not permitted.
I used to travel on a cycle rickshaw to Noida from Mayur Vihar through National Highway till 2007. There were no separate lanes, still cycle riskshaws were permitted then. Nevertheless, it may not be a good idea to permit cycle rickshaws on national highways but certainly they should have lanes, permitted space, on sub-highways.
But as more Nanos appear on the streets, planners may have to ensure that there are no cycle rickshaws, rickshaws etc on the roads. They may justify a ‘ban rickshaw policy’, by saying that Nano’s consume less fuel than others and hence greener, to clear the way for Nanos.
But these cycle rickshaw wallahs, millions of them, will slowly go back to their villages in Bihar or West Bengal, as torture of police and MCD authorities goes up. And then more Nano’s and private vehicles start occupying entire road space. Apart from that, for sure, sooner, Indian roads would only be meant for private cars, no auto rickshaws, cycle rickshaws, two wheelers, cycles permitted.
And furthermore, there won’t be any space for pedestrians.