Police go tough on battery-run rickshawsShakhawat Hossain
The police are clamping down on the use of battery-powered rickshaws in the capital despite their growing popularity amongst operators and passengers who consider them to be comparatively faster than traditional cycle-rickshaws.
Beevatech Limited first marketed the improvised three-wheeler in 2011 by simply fitting rechargeable batteries to traditional rickshaws that are licensed under the Dhaka City Corporation.
A spokesperson from the company said that in 2011 alone, they transformed had some 2,000 units in a small workshop at Uttara because of the increase in demand.
As a result of the availability of cheap imported batteries and other equipment from China, companies including Pongkhiraj Limited as well as individual mechanics have followed in the footsteps of Beevatech and are successfully transforming traditional three-wheelers.
But from early this year, Beevatech have had to slow down operations because of a fall in demand, a result of the city’s traffic police cracking down on the vehicles.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police joint commissioner (traffic) Mahboob Rahman told New Age that the use of battery-powered rickshaws were not legally permitted to be used.
‘They have had no safety regulations carried out,’ he said.
The Bangladesh Road Transport Authority Chairman, Aiyubur Rahman, on the other hand, said his organisation did not deal with rickshaws. He said that the Dhaka City Corporation provided rickshaws with licences.
A DCC official, however, says that they have not taken any decisions yet on the banning of battery-powered rickshaws or on issuing licences.
The DMP joint commissioner said that they had no permission to crack down on workshops that transform the rickshaws. ‘The existing law only permits us to off-limit their movement on the roads,’ he said.
Despite the official confusion, this has not stopped people operating the vehicles in the capital. They have simply adjusted to this new threat by plying them in the feeder roads.
‘I never go onto the main roads,’ said Ibrahim who drives a hired battery-powered rickshaw. His daily rent of Tk 250 is more than double the fee of a traditional cycle-rickshaw.
‘The owner that I rent from strictly forbids me to do so because of disturbance by the police,’ he said.
Ibrahim is unsure as to why the traffic police are behaving towards operators in such ways, in particular as he finds them to be more favourable for customers and users than the traditional three-wheelers.
Ammir Bakth Mondal, leader of the Kamalapur Stadium Businessmen’s Association, said that sales of battery-powered rickshaws had dropped in the last six months because of the police crackdown.
He said that Ponkhiraj Limited, which operates from the market, was still selling around 20 rickshaws a day. Almost all of them are, however, taken out of the capital as the operation of mechanised rickshaws in district towns is free from police disturbances.
Ammir said that he believed that the traffic police are unofficially stopping battery-powered rickshaws because of power shortages in the city.
The owner of Beevatech Limited, Saidur Rahman, agrees. He said that a battery-powered rickshaw consumes electricity which costs around Tk 16 a time.
The rickshaw can be operated for five to six hours with that amount, he said, adding that police activity in Dhaka was sad when India is also encouraging battery-run rickshaws.
He lamented that investments worth Tk 50 million had been halted in his factory as production is slowing.
Saidur says that he will not give up on the mechanised rickshaws following the positive response to them. He even publicised that his company was developing a solar-powered rickshaw which is now under trial.
He hopes that this new project would remove the final hurdle for introducing mechanised rickshaws.
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