Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee may have sworn to rid Kolkata of its ubiquitous hand-pulled rickshaws, but the rickshawpullers or the thousands whom they ferry daily need not despair just yet. If an IIT-Guwahati initiative pays off, the humble rickshaw will continue to criss-cross the narrow alleys of the city in a new, improved avatar.
The tech school's department of design has come up with a eco-friendly version of the tricycle, christened Dipvahan Plus and priced at an affordable Rs 12,000, is ready for trial runs in the Bengal capital.
The vehicle is light and made from jute composites. Fitted with gears and brakes, it has a canopy that shields not only the passengers but also the driver. Its ergonomic seating arrangement and additional luggage space as well as greater manoeuvrability are sure to make it a hit with both the passenger and the driver.
"We expect to sign an agreement with the West Bengal government by the end of this month. This will not be the first time our vehicle is being tried in Bengal. Former agriculture minister Kamal Guha introduced the Dipvahan in his constituency in Cooch Behar earlier this year," said Prof Amarendra Das, the brain behind the new-look rickshaw.
The West Bengal State Agricultural Marketing Board has already acquired 10 of these vehicles for Bolpur and five each for 4 districts - Midnapore, Hooghly, North and South 24 Parganas. "We expect that Kolkata will see these new vehicles soon," Das told the Hindustan Times.
The Secretary of the Department of Agricultural marketing, Bimal Pandey, said he was quite satisfied with the performance of Dipvahan in the districts. "Initially, we are not extracting a price from the rickshawpullers. We have given out all these vehicles to agricultural labourers for six months for free. Later we will see how these vehicles perform and then decide on a revenue model," said Pande.