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Thumbs up to green commuting

Beleaguered commuters of Ranchi, often stranded by strike-prone city buses and fleeced by smoke belching diesel auto-rickshaws, have found a dependable and eco-friendly mode of transport.

A modest fleet of 10 battery-run auto-rickshaws, launched by two local entrepreneurs, has been ferrying office-goers and schoolchildren in the capital for the past six months, and is slowly gaining popularity among drivers too owing to low maintenance needs.

The green vehicles, which stand out in their bright red paint, comfortably seat seven each and do not squeeze in passengers beyond capacity unlike the 4,000-odd petrol- and diesel-fuelled auto-rickshaws that hitherto ruled Ranchi’s roads, often taking unassuming commuters for a ride.

“There is no question of overcrowding in these battery-run autos and the journey is comfortable. For three months now, I have been using no other public transport other than these to reach my office near the Main Road overbridge. Wish there were more of them,” said computer analyst Rajak Sinha.

Agreed homemaker and Line Tank Road resident Mohini Kumari. “I think the government should take cue from this private initiative and roll out battery-run auto-rickshaws in large numbers. The petrol and diesel vehicles emit hazardous hydrocarbons that make us breathe uneasy. The emissions damage our lung tissue. My husband, who had been commuting to his Doranda office in diesel auto-rickshaws so long, is now suffering from asthma,” she said.

Doranda resident Sheela Narayan said she preferred the battery auto-rickshaws because they were safer. “Diesel drivers speed through thoroughfares. It gets scary sometimes. But, these vehicles have an optimum speed of 25kmph so there is no question of reckless driving.”

The zero-emission three-wheelers are also a driver’s favourite.

“I have been plying one for the past six months. I never run out of passengers because people prefer these smoke-free vehicles despite their low speed limit (of 25kmph),” said auto-rickshaw driver Sushil Mahto who makes Rs 700-800 a day by making trips between Albert Ekka Chowk and the overbridge.

Driver Naveen Kumar, who was spotted cleaning his vehicle near Jharkhand High Court, pointed out that the battery ran for 10 hours at a stretch. “So, you can work all day and put the battery on recharge at night. Besides, no licence is needed to run these green autos,” he said, adding that the Motor Vehicles Act recognised only those vehicles having a speed limit above 30kmph.

Entrepreneur duo Sitaram Poddar and Aditya Chhaparia, who have their showroom on Line Tank Road, have pegged the price of each green vehicle at Rs 1.25 lakh. A little government encouragement can go a long way in making Ranchi free of foul air.