Chandni Chowk moves on, sans the rickshaws
Very soon, 15,000-20,000 rickshaws are going to vanish from the bylanes of this Old Delhi area, which will render many rickshaw pullers jobless.delhi Updated: Jun 13, 2007 14:04 IST
An entire way of life is on its way out in the national capital's historic Chandni Chowk area with the ubiquitous rickshaws that took many a traveller through its congested lanes being replaced by CNG buses and thousands of people being rendered jobless.
In a bid to ease traffic in Chandni Chowk, part of the capital's walled city that includes the Jama Masjid, cycle rickshaws have been barred entry to the bustling market area from Monday and environment-friendly buses are running instead.
The move also ensures that hand carts and animal driven vehicles don't ply in the area.
While this initiative has come as a breather for many living and working in the narrow streets of the area, there are many for whom the government decision sounds the death knell -- for livelihoods and lifestyles too.
So while those like Manoj Jain and Subhash Mathur are among the lot who are heaving a sigh of relief, there are other traders like Savita Kumar and Anant Misra who oppose this move.
"It is a pain to commute through Chandni Chowk thanks to the chaotic traffic. Much of it is because of the cycle rickshaws that jam the roads. With this move, we can hope to travel faster and more easily," Jain, a trader in the area, told IANS.
"This area is so congested that it becomes difficult to even walk through it. With the rickshaws off the roads and CNG buses replacing them, this place will start breathing again," added Mathur.
"It's a bad move," said Misra on the other hand. A small time trader who has a hosiery shop in one of the lanes of Chandni Chowk, Misra says that this move will adversely affect his business.
"People can travel through the narrow by-lanes only because of the rickshaw. You don't expect the buses to come through the lanes, do you? My business is going to suffer because of this move, as no one would want to walk through the lanes in the heat," he added.
Kumar said half-heartedly: "I take the metro to my work place in Connaught Place and from the metro station take a rickshaw back to home. With no rickshaws it will be very difficult to travel this distance. I have to go on foot because the buses would obviously not travel through the by-lanes."
While the people of the area clearly seem to be divided, the rickshaw puller's voice, the man who this move has hit directly, is going unheard.
Working tirelessly, come rain or sunshine, these men feel dejected with the decision coming into effect.
"What will I do, how will I feed my family?" asked one hapless rickshaw puller. Although he is one of the few who is still pulling his caravan of life in one of the obscure lanes of Chandni Chowk, he knows that the day is not far when he has to think of alternative livelihood.
"I work from eight in the morning till late night. From whatever I earn, I have to pay a monthly rent to the owner of the rickshaw as well. What will I do after this only means of livelihood is snatched away from me?" he asked helplessly.
"I had just put my child in a school," another rickshaw puller mumbled. "What will I do now?" he asked to no one in particular.
Some rickshaw pullers say the move will in no way reduce congestion in the area. "They might chase us away but what about the two-and three-wheelers, what about the cars? The congestion will remain," Hamid Bashir, a rickshaw puller, told IANS.
"Commuting will become difficult for people, especially for short distances. They will then call us back," said another, hanging by the last straw of hope.
Tourists who clambered on to the rickshaws and roamed the streets of Chandni Chowk will be in for disappointment as well.
But the officials are adamant. "The ban has been implemented. We have also put up poles with signs of the bus routes in some places so as to familiarise the people," said Deep Mathur, the chief spokesperson of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD). "Except a few, other rickshaws in Chandni Chowk are off the roads," he added.
The Delhi High Court passed an order May 17, directing MCD not to grant any license for plying cycle rickshaws on the roads of Delhi and demanded a complete ban on them in the Chandni Chowk area.
The order came in response to a complaint filed by a traders' association of Chandni Chowk. The CNG buses will run on two circular routes at a frequency of two minutes. The fare for these buses has been fixed at Rs 5.
There are 8,000 cycle rickshaws registered in the city zone. Nearly 50,000 unlicensed rickshaws ply in Delhi. About 15,000-20,000 rickshaws, both licensed and unlicensed ones, ply in Chandni Chowk and adjoining areas.