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The High Court of Tripura has directed the state government to ensure non-plying of converted paddle rickshaw into motor-rickshaws in the city within next one month, as it has appeared to be the most risky mode of transportation. There has been a huge opposition and protests against the illegal motorization of paddle rickshaw in Tripura over past two years but neither left front nor BJP-IPFT government undertook any action to stop them in the street. There are reports of several serious accidents which caused permanent disability even death of the passengers. Hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed by a Lawyer divisional bench of High Court comprising of Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Arindam Lodh directed the Commissioner of Agartala Municipal Corporation AMC, District Magistrate (West), SP (Traffic) and Transport authorities to ensure that henceforth, without proper regulation, such manually driven rickshaws operated with a battery/motor installed therein, shall not be allowed to be plied.


The court however, observed, “We are faced with very piquant situation where the authorities be it the Municipal Corporation, Agartala or the District Administration are passing on the burden of responsibility upon each other and without taking any concrete action. Allowing illegality to be perpetuated by not stopping or regulating operation of manually driven rickshaws with a special purpose battery powered installed therein, thus endangering the life and safety of the passengers using such rickshaws as also the passersby.”


The petitioner further explained the court that the public transport in Tripura has been weaken over past few years despite getting huge fund for introducing dedicated, affordable and assured bus service in the city areas under JNNURM. The buses procured for the city were connected to other towns and destinations for inter-district connectivity. Instead, small vehicles like auto-rickshaw, battery operated rickshaw and converted paddle-rickshaws were allowed to run as public means of transport without taking care of the passengers’ rights, safety, comfort and services. As a result, small and personalized vehicles in Agartala and few other towns have registered an abnormal growth, which caused traffic congestion, increase level of pollution as well as road accident.


Meanwhile, the state government while welcoming the decision of high court stated that Tripura has an Act for the operation of battery operated rickshaw but the rules for implementing the Act has not yet framed. “We prefer to regulate the motor driven rickshaw with adequate mechanical correction by installing better safety options and restricting their speed limit at minimum level and their movement in the main city areas. Because manual paddling of rickshaw is inhuman and not a good option of livelihood and if those rickshaws were modified adequately and regulate properly, it would sustain eco-friendly urban carts,” said a senior officer of the state government.


The High Court of Tripura earlier also had issued ban on movement of foreign made motor operated e-rickshaw in the state and directed the government to take appropriate action against them in a time bound manner. The high court observed that most of the e-rickshaws did not have certification of safety norms as prescribed in Indian standard and they were not registered and followed the compliances under Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act 2015. All the urban and semi urban pockets besides, capital Agartala and other major towns have been flooded with e-rickshaw driven by Chinese motors over past two years. Despite repeated persuasions for regulating e-rickshaw, the state government did not take any stringent measure rather encouraged conversion of paddle rickshaw to motorize tri-cycle rickshaw and now hardly there are any paddle rickshaw found in Agartala now. 

Biswendu Bhattacharjee

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