The Lok Sabha today paved the way for regularisation of e-rickshaws, which were banned by the Delhi High Court on issues related to safety, by passing a bill for amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act.
The Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill, 2014, was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Monday by Roads Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari and was passed today by voice vote.
Replying to the debate on the issue, Gadkari said the government was pushing for early passage of the Bill keeping in mind the plight of one crore poor rickshaw pullers who struggle for their daily bread and butter.”The bill is brought not keeping in view Delhi elections,” the Minister said, noting that drivers and passengers of e-rickshaws are poor people and a court order has affected over 2 lakh people who depend on them for their livelihood.
The government has also decided to provide low interest loan at just 4 per cent annually to the rickshaw pullers belonging to poor backward and minority communities to buy e-rickshaws.
Gadkari said his ministry, in consultation with experts and with help from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), has attempted to introduce standardisation of the parts that go into make an e-rickshaw. This has made the vehicle safer, which even women can drive.
The government has also taken precautions to ensure that the drivers are the owners of these e-rickshaws, and prevent cartelisation of the sector where one person owns 50 or 100 such e-rickshaws and keeps drivers on daily wages. E-rickshaw will help reduce the inhuman cycle rickshaws, was non-polluting and will help generate employment. However, the minister cautioned that e-rickshaws should not be allowed in congested cities like Mumbai but could be allowed in its suburbs. The decision, however, lies with state governments. Gadkari said he has proposed to the PM and Finance Minister that loans to buy e-rickshaws be made available at zero interest.
Gadkari also talked about his ministry’s plan to run school buses and city transport buses on bio-fuel. He said the resistance to this move has come from the automobile manufacturers but that his government was determined to go ahead. The first such hybrid diesel and electric fuelled buses might hit Delhi roads in the next couple of buses
In October this year, the government had notified the rules for plying of e-rickshaws making driver’s licence mandatory for operating them and limiting the maximum speed to 25 kmph. It also notified the Central Motor Vehicles (16th Amendment) Rules, 2014, which allowed plying of special purpose battery-operated vehicles. The new rules provided that e-rickshaw will be allowed to carry four passengers and 40 kg luggage while e-carts would transport goods up to 310 kg.
On July 31, the Delhi High Court had banned plying of e-rickshaws on the roads of Delhi saying “prima facie they are hazard to other traffic as well as citizens”.
The road transport and highways ministry has also amended Central Motor Vehicles Rules to exempt the e-rickshaw and e-cart drivers from the provision of having minimum educational qualification of 8th Standard for obtaining a license to drive a transport vehicle, provided the applicant undergoes a training of atleast 10 days from the registered e-rickshaw and e-cart Association or a manufacturer producing e-rickshaw or e-cart. Also, according to the existing Motor Vehicle Act, no person can be granted a learner’s license to drive a transport vehicle unless he has held the driving license for a period of at least one year. This criteria has been done away with for e-rick and e-cart drivers.