Rickshaws pushed into oblivion in Vijayawada

Vijayawada: The brightly-coloured common man's vehicle, Vijayawada rickshaw, which earned the city the name of second Kolkata in India, is being overtaken by autos.

The typical model of a gearless bicycle at the front connected by an extended chain to the axle of the carriage which is curved like a boat underneath having a small bench to seat the passengers and covered with a plastic hood to protect those travelling in it from heat and rain is gradually being replaced by a motor vehicle. Most of the rickshaw-pullers are turning into coolies with autos becoming the common mode of travel.

The rickshaw, which does not cause any pollution, was the vehicle used by the middle-class to ply short distances in the city. There were around 30,000 rickshaws in the city, 24 years ago. By the 90s, the number dwindled to half.

Cars and taxis entered the scene and soon the people began travelling in auto rickshaws. Around 30 unions of rickshaw-pullers are now extinct. According to one of the rickshaw-pullers, there used to be around 40 rickshaw stands with each of them having 20-40 vehicles parked to serve the commuters in the city.

The major rickshaw stands used to be at the bus station, Kaleswararao market, railway station, Hotel Ilapuram, Vijay Talkies, Kotthevantena, Bombay Gate centres, Krishna Lanka and Auto Nagar. Now, there is a rickshaw stand only at the Vijayawada railway station.

"Around 30,000 rickshaws used to ply on the roads in the city.covered the city roads. We used to earn sufficiently and run our families," recalls Dudekula Mastan, a rickshaw-puller hailing  from Atkuru village near Madhira in Krishna district. Everyday, he used to wait for the passengers at the railway station with his rented rickshaw. “I pulled rickshaw for 35 years in my life. For 24 years, I did it in the city. Now, auto-rickshaws have replaced our vehicles and many of us are working as labour at construction sites,” he added.

"Now-a-days, only aged people prefer rickshaws as we are reliable," says Yapati Durgarao, a rickshaw-puller who came to the city from Rajahmundry. "We hardly get Rs 150 despite working from early in the morning to evening," he added.

"We like to travel in a rickshaw because rickshaw-pullers help us to sit and also alight. They even respect passengers which is very rare from those driving autos," points out Ramala Antony, a retired station master.

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