Chronicle of Indian Rickshawala- A Casestudy
Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur is an educational institute where rickshaws are widely used as a mode of transportation to circumvent the problem of pollution moreover, a part of a population in Kharagpur depend on this occupation for their livelihood. To plot the life of cycle rickshawala community particularly in the vicinity of IIT Kharagpur, West Bengal, a small scale survey was conducted on a random basis.
IIT Kharagpur houses approximately 57 rickshawalas who have the government license to pursue their job. mostly all age groups are involved in this particular job, and on an average, middle-aged people dominated this occupation in Kharagpur region.It is revealed that most of the rickshawalas in Kharagpur are natives of the same place, unlike the rickshaw pullers in Delhi who are seasonal migrants from neighbouring states.Analysing the survey results it is understood that most of the rickshawalas in Kharagpur have a daily income ranging between Rs 100 and Rs 200 resulting in an average monthly income of Rs 2000 to Rs 3000. But according to the study the earnings of rickshaw puller doesn’t show a consistent pattern, it varies depending on several factors viz. seasons, festivals etc.
None of the rickshaw puller involved in the study have a secondary source of income, except a few from joint family reported that some of their family members also earn. Some rickshawalas are hired by students on a monthly basis for their daily to and fro transportation from hostel to concerned departments. Almost all respondents are suffering from financial debts because meeting the family needs from a scanty income is quite difficult.The major population of rickshawalas found addictive to tobacco, alcohol etc, thereby a part of their income is spent on it. Moreover, all the participants of the survey having children reported that they are sending their children to school out of their financial crisis. Recently started bus service in IIT Kharagpur is identified as a reason for sudden fall in income of the rickshawalas inside the campus. This strengthens the fact that continuous desire of human race to strive for comfort may create unbalance within the society.
On the average most of the rickshawalas were ready to quit this job and take up a better livelihood, but still a few people agreed that they have good sort of satisfaction in their current job. An article in Hindu Newspaper in 2007 reported that one thing that keeps them in this job is the reluctance to learn driving and the price involved. But this was found only partially true from the survey conducted among rickshaw puller of Kharagpur region in West Bengal as most of the individuals were ready to drive motor vehicles, but they are not capable of affording the capital cost involved; since they couldn't own a rickshaw, they use rented ones at the rate of Rs 25 to 30 per day.
For driving a rickshaw in Kharagpur, government license should be availed, which can be obtained from the nearest post office, and the individual has to submit a fee of Rs. 500 for the same which holds a validity of 10 to 12 years.Some of the respondents who are in their fifties and above reported health issues viz. cough chest pain etc. after taking up this occupation, and no proper treatment has been done for the curing of these diseases due to lack of money.They are also concerned about the loss of their daily income while they spend their valuable time in long queues of affordable Government hospitals, so they mainly take on either self-treatment or no treatment.
Helping people reach nearby markets, railway stations, and bus terminals, and allowing them to commute short distances in narrow lanes where cars and auto rickshaws cannot easily travel make rickshawalas an integral part of the transport system in IIT Kharagpur. Being in the job of a rickshawala is neither easy nor well reputed; even though it seems as a small occupation seeking a livelihood, the man effort and hardships are enormous within it.
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