E-Rickshaws Remain ‘Illegal’ Even As Luxury Electric Cars Hit Guwahati Roads
With time, modes of transport have also seen gradual change. And with the ever increasing rise of fuel prices, people are considering affordable alternatives. The latest option to counter this everyday expense is electric vehicles. Guwahatians are seen opting for EVs (electric vehicles) instead of the regular petrol or diesel options and flashing past with their newly acquired possession with a ‘green registration plate.’
However, these luxury vehicles are not the first electric vehicles to ply on the streets of Guwahati. Their predecessors, the e- rickshaws, continue to create hazards on the narrow streets and by lanes.
In the light of special registration being issued to their more luxurious counterparts, G Plus took stock of the e-rickshaws plying in and around Guwahati.
It came as a surprise that none of the government departments - be it the district administration, the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) or the District Transport Office (DTO) - have any record of these very popular and convenient means of transport.
Citizens and commuters have time and again been complaining about the unruly e-rickshaws that significantly contribute to traffic blockages alongside the trekkers and other manual cycle rickshaws. However, the government and the administration are yet to figure out any proper rules and regulations for them.
Apart from rules to bring them into the administration’s ambit, the state government, till date, does not have any registration policy for the e-rickshaws. As such, none of these electric vehicles are registered, nor do the drivers require any proper driving license.
Over the years, the city has also recorded many accidents by these vehicles, some highly damaging. Unlike the manual rickshaws that are slow moving, these EVs run at a fair speed of 25 to 40 kilometres per hour.
Every possible concerned department lies in a predicament on how to bring these vehicles under its radar. The GMC has refused to cover them stating that these are motorized vehicles and the corporation manages the manual slow moving ones only.
The transport department has been expressing its difficulties in registering them given that the e-rickshaws do not have any proper motor and hence no chassis number which, policy wise, is a vital component required for vehicle registration. “How can we get them registered without any individual number? These run on just a battery,” said a DTO official.
And given the circumstances, the Guwahati Traffic Police said, “They do not have any registration. Most of the time, the hired drivers do not have licenses. How do we identify them or how to issue a challan? Any even if we do, under what rules or act can they be charged?” asked a traffic personnel.
And let alone registration, surprisingly, DTO, GMC and the Kamrup (M) District Administration does not even have any record of the number of unauthorized, unruly electric rickshaws plying on the city streets.
“The e-rickshaws have been banned by the state government since 2019. Yet they continue to ply in by-lanes and inner areas of the city where government public transportation is yet to reach. Also, the drivers and the owners are mostly from the lowest income group. In the absence of proper rules and laws it is difficult to stop them. But we cannot deny the nuisance they create,” said a transport official.
The flipside of the story, plights of the e-rickshaw walas:
Mansoor Ahmed, whose sole means of livelihood is an e-rickshaw that he procured few years back said, “It is difficult even for us to drive without any road license. While the public feels that not having a registration is benefitting us, it’s actually the opposite. The police and other government officials often come to collect money from us. We have around 10 rickshaws in our stand, and each is forced to pay around Rs. 1000 per month. Also the officials take away our vehicles and we have to pay Rs. 2000 to Rs. 3000 each time this happens but without any challan.
“Also the Tata Magic and trekker drivers treat us badly. Without any paper work they pick on us saying we are illegal and won’t allow us to take customers from areas where the trekkers are in service. Their groups often treat our drivers badly and on a few occasions our boys were severely hurt,” added Nipon Saikia, another e-ickshaw driver.
It has also come to notice that while authorities have often overlooked the irregularities of the e-rickshaw drivers considering them to be people of the lower earning sections, and often lend a humane hand, a few have taken this as an opportunity to do business.
“Some rich people buy about 10 or more vehicles and rent them out to the drivers. They form their own groups and stand and make it difficult for the regular ones to do business. Even we want some kind of registration so we can earn with dignity. After all even we are working hard,” Saikia added.
G Plus enquired with the transport department if some special policy has been framed for the registration of electric vehicles now, given that a few ‘green’ license plates have been issued to the luxury brand cars, and if the e-rickshaws might be included in the same. To this Gunadhar Das, Assistant Commissioner of Transport said, “We have no special policy for electric vehicles and have permitted none for registration. DTO Kamrup (M) has not yet issued any such license to my knowledge.”
When asked about the ‘green registration plates being issued, Das denied having issued the same. “The government has not even framed any such policy. How will we provide registration?”
The confusion continues even as Guwahati has seen quite a few electric cars bearing green colored registration plates plying in the city. The matter would need further investigation and a report clarifying all the confusion will be carried in the forthcoming issue of G Plus.
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