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Horse carts are losing out to autos near Mumbai

Kalyan is only place in MMR where the tongas still ferry passengers; the ancient mode of transport is turning into a joyride

mumbai Updated: Mar 25, 2018 00:50 IST
Sajana Nambiar
Sajana Nambiar
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Mumbai news,Kalyan
The horse cart stand outside Kalyan station. Around 25 horse carts run in the city(RISHIKESH CHOUDHARY/HT)

Shoaib Raees, a horse cart driver, stands outside the Kalyan railway station, ready to ferry passengers. He ends up waiting at least 20 minutes to get a passenger and by the time the fourth passenger, his final one for the ride takes his place in the cart, one hour of his six-hour shift is over.

“It is difficult to get passengers these days as not many want to travel in a horse cart. Sometimes, I get only two passengers after waiting for a long time at the tonga lane,” said Raees, 57. A horse cart can carry four passengers and drivers wait till they all seats are full.

The decline in the number of passengers taking the horse cart has meant an unstable income for drivers, as they do don’t have a fixed number of trips they make daily. Drivers said added to this is the fact that a horse cannot run for more than six hours a day.

“There is no specific amount that I earn as it all depends on the number of passengers. Sometimes I take 10 trips in a day, sometimes just two,” said Raees.

Around 25 horse carts run in the city. The minimum fare is Rs10 for a distance of at least 1 to 1.5 km. If one takes a horse cart from Kalyan station to Doodh naka in Kalyan (West) which is 1 to 1.5 km away from the station, it will cost Rs10. However, 10 years ago it used to cost Rs6. Autorickshaws outside the station also charge Rs10 to Doodh naka.

“The number of passengers has reduced tremendously lately. We endlessly wait outside the station for passengers,” said Diwakar Patil, 55, who has been driving a horse cart driver for 40 years.

Horse cart drivers said the increase in fare has reduced passengers.

A few decades ago, several families at Doodh naka, Paar naka and Tilak chowk in Kalyan (West) made their living by driving horse carts. But, only a handful has stuck to it.

“The tonga, which was once a mode of transportation in different parts of Kalyan since Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s rule, is vanishing from the streets slowly. The major reasons for this is low income and lack of stability of the work,” said Manoj Patil, 35, a resident of Paar naka, Kalyan (West).

Families in Kalyan who drove tongas for a living used to wake up early in the morning. They used to spend two hours cleaning and grooming their horses, feeding them hay, jaggery and grams. Around 7am, they would begin ferrying people from Doodh naka to Kalyan station and back.

Tongas used to play a major role in transportation before buses and autos started to ply in the city. Kalyan then was a port near Durgadi Fort, famous for trade. Horse carts decorated with colourful veils (pardah) and lights (kandil) were seen on the streets and royal families from different parts visited the city on the decorated horse carts.

Fifteen years ago, there were around 300 horse carts in the city. Today, it has reduced to 25. The drivers said their jobs are at risk.

“The increasing congestion in the city is also affecting our business as the horse carriage hardly gets any space to move. The authorities have failed to address issues faced by the horse cart drivers,” said Dilawar Khan, 50, another horse cart driver.

In Kalyan, the tonga will help you reach different places like Doodh naka, Paar naka, Agra road and other places in Kalyan (West).

“The new generation is not interested in taking up tonga driving as the work is unstable. Most of the youngsters opt for driving an autorickshaw,”added Khan.

Some of the residents in Kalyan take a tonga as a fun ride for their children. “Children are very fond of animals. My son likes it,” said Tausif Mirsinge, 48, a resident of Doodh naka.

The horse carts also face hurdles with parking. Initially there were three lanes for parking tongas at the railway station premises, but due to the increase in the number of autorickshaws, it has come down to one lane.

“The authorities should at least preserve tongas so that the upcoming generation is aware of the historical mode of transportation of the city. It was once the pride of old Kalyan, where most of the residents chose a tonga to connect to the railway station,” said Rajendra Phadke, president of Kalyan passengers’ association.

First Published: Mar 25, 2018 00:50 IST