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With an eye on a possible re-election in Delhi, Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari announced the regularisation of the controversial e-rickshaws at a ‘maha rally’ organised by e-rickshaw unions at Ramlila Maidan on Tuesday.
Gadkari said the vehicles will be registered with the municipal corporations which will also issue identity cards to rickshaw drivers. The process, he said, will start soon.
Over one lakh e-rickshaw drivers gathered to protest against the transport ministry’s notification issued on April 25, which had termed battery-operated rickshaws illegal. While there were no orders from the transport department, drivers complained their vehicles were being challaned and impounded by the traffic police.
According to an estimate, more than two lakh e-rickshaws ply in the city. “These rickshaws are a source of employment to lakhs of rickshaw drivers. We have listed certain rules which the drivers will have to follow,” Gadkari said at Ramlila Maidan.
E-rickshaws will now be treated as non-motorised vehicles. However, the ministry is mulling bringing an ordinance to amend the existing Motor Vehicles (MV) Act which will legalise e-rickshaws from plying in the city and elsewhere.
The new rule will allow e-rickshaws to ply but there is a flip side. These vehicles won’t come under the MV Act which means that victims of e-rickshaw accidents will not get any compensation from the government.
Gadkari also said that these rickshaws can ferry at best four passengers and an additional weight of 25-50 kgs of luggage will also be permitted.
Addressing the controversy on the engine power of these battery-operated vehicles, a set benchmark of a 650 W engine has been specified.
The government had earlier exempted vehicles running on battery power of less than 250 W from the central motor vehicles rules. However, the e-rickshaws run on 500 W battery and above.
Since the e-rickshaws will not be covered under the MV act, neither the transport department nor the traffic police will have the authority to penalise these vehicles.
To encourage their use, bank loans will also be provided with a minimum interest rate of 3% per annum and no guarantee would be required for applying for these loans.