| END OF THE ROAD' A rickshaw on a Calcutta street. A Telegraph picture
The chief minister on Monday proposed allocation of parking zones to rickshaw-pullers after a ban on the vehicle. He made the suggestion at a meeting of a select committee of the Assembly.
Most of the committee members felt rickshaws should no longer be allowed to ply, but insisted on the state government compensating the pullers suitably.
Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who chaired the meeting, declared: “I cannot bear the sight of a man dragging another man. It’s inhuman.”
He added: “If 20 parking zones can be earmarked in the city for groups of 100 rickshaw-pullers, they should be able to earn their livelihood through the fees. That would take care of alternative employment for about 2,000 rickshaw-pullers.” The meeting had been convened to discuss the Calcutta Hackney Carriage Amendment Bill, 2006.
The chief minister also spoke about providing a one-time compensation to rickshaw owners and pullers. The amount would be in the region of Rs 1 lakh for each rickshaw, said a committee member.
Congress legislator Sudip Bandopadhyay told Bhattacharjee at the meeting that steps to take rickshaws off the road should follow a “suitable compensation package”, while leader of the Opposition Partha Chatterjee urged the chief minister not to be hasty.
Sources said Bhattacharjee wants to refer the bill back to the House and get it passed by the end of the winter session. The bill had been sent to a select committee after its introduction in the House following the Opposition call for a debate before rickshaws are banned.
At an earlier meeting of the committee, the chief minister had claimed that the number of licensed rickshaws in the city is only 387. The All Bengal Rickshaw Union countered the claim and put the figure at 5,937.
“I believe the union’s figure is correct. I had a talk with a union leader and Congress legislator Somen Mitra,” Bhattacharjee was quoted as saying at Monday’s meeting.
The chief minister is likely to meet members of the rickshaw union one more time, before finalising the select committee report and tabling it on the floor of the House.