Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Farewell Rickshaw

I had written about the impending ban on rickshaws in Calcutta.

The ban was formalised yesterday, with the West Bengal Assembly passing the Calcutta Hackney Carriage (Amendment) Bill, 2006. Sadly, the issue of rehabilitation of the 20,000 or so pullers has not been dealt with at all.

The Chief Minister’s statement that “the government would rehabilitate a large number of rickshaw-pullers and also owners of licenced rickshaws by engaging them in car park cooperatives” is too bankrupt to even take seriously.

He said a “reasonable compensation” will be paid to those who cannot be rehabilitated, so that they can switch to other professions.

He also said several are suffering from tuberculosis. I wonder why he was unable to do anything about rickshaw pullers’ tuberculosis all these years. But this only reflects the overall state of health of the health department and of people in West Bengal under CPI(M) rule.

“We would like to provide them with money... But our main target is to rehabilitate as many rickshaw-pullers as possible”.

Let us see what transpires. We are still waiting for so many things in CPI(M)’s and Buddhadev Bhattacharjee’s West Bengal.

From the grand declaration of banning the rickshaw in August 2005, to today’s heroic obsequiousness towards Tata Motors in Singur, yes it’s a nice jatra that the common people of West Bengal have been witnessing. Only, this one is real. With livelihoods and more livelihoods trampled on, and people fenced out, to marginality.

That’s how globalisation is being played out. But it needn’t be that way. Globalisation can mean something different. And we can try to express and further that with our own choices and actions.


Zareba said...

You walk a difficult path. Keep faith with your soul.

Thank you for the peek into a culture so different from my own.


Ghetufool said...

rickshaw banned? trams too? why should i go to calcutta now?

Yves said...

Having read Dominique LaPierre's City of Joy many years ago, I feel this news almost personally, and with mixed feelings too. Rickshaw-pulling is a terrible way to make a living but the rehabilitation should have preceded the ban and not followed at an uncertain interval after it.