Do Something about Rickshaw-walas

By | September 15, 2011

Two weeks ago, in Vile Parle East, there was a commotion on the street near where I was talking with two people I knew. It looked like two men were fighting. The two men I was with immediately rushed to intervene, while I watched from the sidelines.

What had happened was that a man had flagged a rickshaw to take his aged ill mother to a nearby hospital and the rickshaw driver refused to take them there. Furious and frustrated, the man beat the rickshaw guy mercilessly. The poor driver was paying for the collective refusal of several rickshaws to ferry him while his tired mother waited helplessly.

While this is a dramatic incident, it is quite common. Rickshaw drivers routinely refuse passengers to places they don’t want to go to and accept rides only to select locations – for various reasons which basically boil down to convenience. They may not wish to go out of their area, or they may want to avoid areas with bad roads, or very commonly, they want to avoid places where they will end up at a rickshaw stand after dropping off passengers (at a rickshaw stand, they can’t refuse any location a passenger wants to go to) and so on. It is a common frustration to be refused by many rickshaws before you get one.

Passengers are increasingly furious, but feel helpless, since rickshaws may be public transport, but them having no set rules or locations, it is difficult to police this kind of misconduct. And misconduct it is. Idea of a public vehicle is that it is available to all potential passengers indiscriminately. In reality, there are few places where you can easily get rickshaws for.

Yesterday, I carried Nisarga about half way to Andheri in blazing afternoon heat, because 27 rickshaws refused to go to Andheri Station. That is right Twenty Seven rickshaws refused point blank to go to Andheri Station from Vile Parle Subhash Road. When we did Nisarga’s BERA Test last week, 13 rickshaws refused to travel from Vile Parle East Hanuman Road to Nanavati Hospital in the West. It is quite common to waste up to half an hour to get a rickshaw to an inconvenient place. I know a friend who was not able to travel from Vile Parle East Nehru Road to Aarey Milk Colony after waiting for two full hours. Going from Borivli West – Yogi Nagar to Thakur Village Kandivli East or even the National Park is a big challenge.

This makes for a lot of angry people. Rickshaws will drive by empty but refuse to take passengers to places they don’t like. These areas being relatively prosperous and busy, there is no dearth of passengers to quickly find another who wants to go to a place they like. On the other hand, this pretty much amounts to serious failure of public transport in some situations.

They charge us extra at night for the inconvenience (isolated areas don’t have further fares after dropping passengers requiring a driving back to a suitable place), but whether it is day or night they don’t actually take inconvenient fares. Then what are we paying for, and why?

Together with some friends, we have come up with several ideas as a beginning point for getting some accountability into an inconvenience that is fast escalating into unreliable public transport.

  1. Find out and publicize complaint numbers for rickshaw drivers who refuse passengers and file complaints.
  2. Try and get traffic officials to run stings for such rickshaw drivers or encourage citizens do them and publicize on a wider scale and demand that they are made to follow rules.
  3. Never ask if a rickshaw will take you to a certain location, but sit first, and then give directions. If the driver refuses, ask for his licence and note details and the rickshaw’s registration. The practice of asking rickshaw drivers locations before boarding should be stopped completely. It would be good for them if their comfort could be accommodated, but unfortunately, this is resulting in many parts of the city being extremely difficult to find transport for.
  4. There needs to be something more that we can do, because none of this guarantee that the drivers will play fair. Find out, collaborate on ideas. Someone had suggested a boycott with people offering lifts in personal vehicles, but this is not so practical.
I am hoping you have some good ideas to add to this.

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10 thoughts on “Do Something about Rickshaw-walas

  1. Jenifermon

    I had boarded the auto from jb nagar  today and left it waiting near the bank. My bags with eatables and toiletries was left there. When i returned in a minutes time, the auto had gone. Is there any way to get my things back.

    Reply
  2. Jenifermon

    I had boarded the auto from jb nagar  today and left it waiting near the bank. My bags with eatables and toiletries was left there. When i returned in a minutes time, the auto had gone. Is there any way to get my things back.

    Reply
  3. harsh

    i am staying at goregaon e and today we have facing lot of problem cause of rickshaw walas…. at evening time they want long root bhadas so they not ready to go for station or small distants and now new problem is start they charged share fare per person 10 rs ..its to costly because from my home on 10 rs charged by meter and what is happening in democratic world ….always rate of meter is increasing instead they using CNG and governent also accepting rickshaw walas demand without considering about common people

    Reply
  4. harsh

    i am staying at goregaon e and today we have facing lot of problem cause of rickshaw walas…. at evening time they want long root bhadas so they not ready to go for station or small distants and now new problem is start they charged share fare per person 10 rs ..its to costly because from my home on 10 rs charged by meter and what is happening in democratic world ….always rate of meter is increasing instead they using CNG and governent also accepting rickshaw walas demand without considering about common people

    Reply
  5. VM

    I think the problem is foul combination of simple economics and poor regulation. This problem exists not only in Mumbai but many other Indian cities be it Delhi, Calcutta, Chennai, Bangalore or Hyderabad.

    Ever since ricks and cabs moved to 60-70% cheaper CNG, have we seen fares coming down? Which means that their profit margins have soared. In economics we have learnt about this behaviour where supply of labour reduces as wages rise. A paradox! Economists say that this happens as  people choose comfort over money, once the income crosses a bare minimum threshold. (Lack of ambition ?) See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Backward_bending_supply_curve_of_labourAre rising costs really a problem for these auto-men? I doubt so. While you are riding a rick or a cab, you can ask them about the basic economics of running one. You would realize that they earn much more than many other semi-skill (or to be honest low-skill) jobs. True cost of living has gone up significantly over past decade or so. But then, if you paid me Rs. 100 Crs today and nothing over next 20 years, at least I wouldn’t complain. Basically, the starting margins were so high that the increase in cost of living hardly has a dent in net profits. Add to that rising demand – more passengers being ferried to longer distances – their total incomes are only increasing. Explains pretty well the rise of Meroo and Mega cabs of the world.Poor regulation. I theorize that government assures them high margins in return for their “duty” to provide services to commuters, no questions asked. Unfortunately, while one side of the bargain has been kept with high profits, the other one has been conveniently ignored. After all, it is had work disciplining thousands of rickshaw and taxi wallas.My Dream Solution : Rather than fixing very high minimum fare for private service providers like Meroo or Mega cabs, allow free pricing. Let competition roll in and we shall see the impact soon enough.

    Your thoughts?

    Reply
  6. VM

    I think the problem is foul combination of simple economics and poor regulation. This problem exists not only in Mumbai but many other Indian cities be it Delhi, Calcutta, Chennai, Bangalore or Hyderabad.

    Ever since ricks and cabs moved to 60-70% cheaper CNG, have we seen fares coming down? Which means that their profit margins have soared. In economics we have learnt about this behaviour where supply of labour reduces as wages rise. A paradox! Economists say that this happens as  people choose comfort over money, once the income crosses a bare minimum threshold. (Lack of ambition ?) See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Backward_bending_supply_curve_of_labourAre rising costs really a problem for these auto-men? I doubt so. While you are riding a rick or a cab, you can ask them about the basic economics of running one. You would realize that they earn much more than many other semi-skill (or to be honest low-skill) jobs. True cost of living has gone up significantly over past decade or so. But then, if you paid me Rs. 100 Crs today and nothing over next 20 years, at least I wouldn’t complain. Basically, the starting margins were so high that the increase in cost of living hardly has a dent in net profits. Add to that rising demand – more passengers being ferried to longer distances – their total incomes are only increasing. Explains pretty well the rise of Meroo and Mega cabs of the world.Poor regulation. I theorize that government assures them high margins in return for their “duty” to provide services to commuters, no questions asked. Unfortunately, while one side of the bargain has been kept with high profits, the other one has been conveniently ignored. After all, it is had work disciplining thousands of rickshaw and taxi wallas.My Dream Solution : Rather than fixing very high minimum fare for private service providers like Meroo or Mega cabs, allow free pricing. Let competition roll in and we shall see the impact soon enough.

    Your thoughts?

    Reply
  7. SK

    Thanks for bringing this issue out – this is a HUGE menace for people in the western suburbs. As you have suggested, earlier I used to just sit in rickshaws & give directions. But, ric drivers have become smarter – I find that in Andheri (East), many rics don’t stop when you wave at them – they keep their meters sideways and slow down as they approach you so you have to shout the desired destination to them – if they want to take you, they stop ahead, if not they keep driving. 9.9 times out of 10, they won’t go from east to west and vice versa. Plus, everyone does it, difficult to keep tab & complain about every ric. Unfortunately, I have no suggestions as of now – I just walk it up, whatever the distance, or if I’m lucky, find a cab. But if there’s a way I would be thrilled to participate.

    Reply
  8. SK

    Thanks for bringing this issue out – this is a HUGE menace for people in the western suburbs. As you have suggested, earlier I used to just sit in rickshaws & give directions. But, ric drivers have become smarter – I find that in Andheri (East), many rics don’t stop when you wave at them – they keep their meters sideways and slow down as they approach you so you have to shout the desired destination to them – if they want to take you, they stop ahead, if not they keep driving. 9.9 times out of 10, they won’t go from east to west and vice versa. Plus, everyone does it, difficult to keep tab & complain about every ric. Unfortunately, I have no suggestions as of now – I just walk it up, whatever the distance, or if I’m lucky, find a cab. But if there’s a way I would be thrilled to participate.

    Reply
  9. Lukha_of_mumbai

    I happened to ask a ricksha driver yesterday about this and he came up with-
    1. MNS and SS not allowing outside drivers (bhaiyya’s and bihari’s) to stay here, work and if anything happens he said we are first to get f**ked.
    2. Rising fuel prices.
    3. Old ricksha being scrapped.
    4. Traffic rules getting strict and some traffic wala’s refusal to accept bribe (Rs.50/-) post Anna Hazare’s campaign (Fine Rs.1200/- for stuffs like PUC).
    5. Increase price of ricksha. I think he told me that the cost of getting a ricksha with all the formalities costs the same as buying an Alto. etc etc..

    I understand nothing can b done till the time government does something about it. I think the government should give them some kind of subsidies on fuel prices or something like that and one of the main problem I see is the mentality we have. I mean we don’t mind giving 50 rupai tip to a waiter or buy some expensive stuff which we never use but when it comes to people like these, we kind of blow it out of proportion and make a big deal about it.

    Reply
  10. Lukha_of_mumbai

    I happened to ask a ricksha driver yesterday about this and he came up with-
    1. MNS and SS not allowing outside drivers (bhaiyya’s and bihari’s) to stay here, work and if anything happens he said we are first to get f**ked.
    2. Rising fuel prices.
    3. Old ricksha being scrapped.
    4. Traffic rules getting strict and some traffic wala’s refusal to accept bribe (Rs.50/-) post Anna Hazare’s campaign (Fine Rs.1200/- for stuffs like PUC).
    5. Increase price of ricksha. I think he told me that the cost of getting a ricksha with all the formalities costs the same as buying an Alto. etc etc..

    I understand nothing can b done till the time government does something about it. I think the government should give them some kind of subsidies on fuel prices or something like that and one of the main problem I see is the mentality we have. I mean we don’t mind giving 50 rupai tip to a waiter or buy some expensive stuff which we never use but when it comes to people like these, we kind of blow it out of proportion and make a big deal about it.

    Reply

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