Human Horses
January 22, 2007 10:42 PM   Subscribe

“We work, we do not steal” is what the Rickshaw Wallahs have to say about it, whose means of livelihood the Kolkata assembly plans to ban soon, but hasn’t figured out an alternate source of income for yet. Meanwhile, the good old rickshaw has been finding a new home abroad, albeit one of a more novel nature. (More on the state of Transportaion in India, and a World Bank perspective on the facilities provided by the subcontinent. Plus, some more images of the Rickshaw.)
posted by hadjiboy (8 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Interesting. If it's anything like China, the law will only be as effective as the police enforce it. And laws like that will mean nothing after 9pm.

This would be a perfect opportunity for micro-lending to help get them the tricycle and auto rickshaws the government wants to replace them with.
posted by trinarian at 11:07 PM on January 22, 2007

I was surprised to see rickshaws and pedal bikes in NYC recently. Do they exist just to get around taxi regulation?
posted by zamboni at 11:07 PM on January 22, 2007

Agree with trinarian that this looks like an ideal opportunity for microfinance; at the very least, the government could consider backing a loan scheme to allay the puller's fears of being fleeced by the bank.
The classic Chinese novel of the rickshaw puller would be Lao She's 骆驼祥子 (Camel Xiangzi, or Rickshaw Boy in the US, where it was given a different, happy, ending), which I'm ashamed to say I haven't read, but I understand his choice of rickshaw-puller as his put-upon Everyman is based on a view of the work similar to that of the West Bengali government.
posted by Abiezer at 12:34 AM on January 23, 2007

I don't know about the rickshaws in NYC, but there's a bunch of them in Toronto, and they operate essentially as tourist money-grabs. They mill around the entertainment district and the waterfront during nice weather (some stick around for winter, too) and charge sizable sums per block of transport. In many cases, an informal tour is part of the package, and I've even seen costume-themed rickshaws (about as tacky as it sounds). Despite frequently bottling up traffic in downtown Toronto, they're existence is often justified as evironmentaly friendly...although the website for the Rickshaw Runners of Toronto seems to be more about cheap mobile advertising.
posted by LMGM at 3:26 AM on January 23, 2007

The only rickshaw I've ever seen in China is this one.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:02 AM on January 23, 2007

It's worth pointing out that the cycle-rickshaw as it generally appears in India is pretty different from its incarnation in New York--that is to say, it's cheap, heavy, and has no gears. Since no one actually likes driving a rickshaw (again, as far as I know) and often saves up to start working on another type of transportation such as an auto-rickshaw, there doesn't seem to be much market demand on better quality.

Anyways, the Calcutta rickshaws aren't even pulled by cycles. They also look, to the one, as if they're a hundred years old and made from the hardest and most extinct tropical wood that has ever been seen. But the most important fact about them that I'm aware of, and probably the reason that they're still around, is that they're the only vehicles that are tall enough to keep people dry in the monsoon. For the rest of the year they block traffic, which would be why the government would try to get rid of them (after all, is allowing children to carry around baskets of broken rocks on their heads particularly humane?), but during the monsoon, they're the only traffic left.

All this is speculation on my part, but one thing that's definite is that these articles are all really old, and a quick walk through downtown Calcutta (the only area the writer really visited) proves that they've yet to go anywhere. They are, also, really gnarly and sketchy, and look like something out of a time warp, much like Calcutta itself. (If you watch an old movie that shows Park St., it pretty much looks exactly the same fifty years ago...)
posted by goodglovin77 at 7:15 AM on January 23, 2007

Pedicabs in New York.
posted by dhartung at 7:32 AM on January 23, 2007

don't make me homesick.
posted by infini at 10:56 AM on January 23, 2007

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