Simone Donati


The last rickshaw pullers of Kolkata

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Hand-pulled rickshaws came to India most likely from China during early 20th century. Kolkata is the only city in India, and one of the few around the world where hand-pulled rickshaws are still operating.

The last rickshaw pullers of Kolkata

Most of them are from the neighbouring states like Bihar and Jharkhand and belong to uneducated and poor families. Most sleep, eat and live on the city's crowded pavements. In most cases they do not own the vehicles, but pay a sizeable portion of their earnings to hire them. According to the statistics, there are 6500 registered, and a few more thousands unregistered, hand-pulled rickshaws on the streets of Kolkata. In 2006 the Government of West Bengal proposed a ban on the hand-pulled rickshaw; the authorities had decided the sight of barefoot humans pulling other humans around the city was bad for Calcutta’s image. Their union went to the High Court to oppose the ban and now this case is pending before the court of law since August 2006. All of them are contributing from their earnings to fight against the ban. The Government is planning for other alternative work to provide them with because if they will stop working as rickshaw pullers they will lose everything they own.