Today, the West Bengal government will table the Calcutta Hackney-Carriage Amendment Bill, 2006 in the state legislative assembly. Given the size of the Opposition, this bill is likely to be passed.
The amendment to the original Calcutta Hackney-Carriage Act of 1919, calls for a complete ban on man-drawn rickshaws. The Chief Minister, Mr Buddhadev Bhattacharjee had made clear his intention to ban rickshaws on 15 August last year. "This is so inhuman. How can we tolerate such modes of transportation in the 21st Century?" asked Mr Bhattacharjee.
Ironically, the yeoman services of the rickshaw to city-dwellers was once again in full view on Calcutta's flooded streets yesterday, as they ferried stranded women, children and the elderly.
The CM wants to get rid of the image - of man's inhumanity to man - rather than the reality, of an inhumane society, with inhuman living conditions for the labouring poor. There is actually no humanity in the CM or his party or his govt, for that would have meant working out a proper rehabilitation programme for the rickshaw pullers. Only inhumanity, and vanity. Banning rickshaws without successfully arranging alternatives for the pullers means actually inflicting cruelty on the pullers.
The govt is also displaying its parochialism - the pullers are predominantly Bihari. They are insecure, unorganised. Hence they are an easy target to pick on.
Shame on you CM!