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e-rickshaws grounded

- Traffic SP recommends three affordable ways to decongest capital while battery-run three-wheelers go off roads

The Ranchi traffic department has banned battery-operated three-wheelers, more popularly known as e-rickshaws, as they don’t have road permits or registration papers amid confusion about whether the fleet should come under the Motor Vehicles Act.

If treated as motorised vehicles, the green autos, which provides pollution-free rides at a much lower cost, will have to procure driving licences and registration numbers from the district transport office on the basis of which, the traffic department issues road permits and designates routes.

In case these are dubbed as normal rickshaws, they just need to be registered with the Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC). The dozen-odd e-rickshaws plying in Ranchi don’t have any such paper.

“A delegation of owners of battery-operated rickshaws met me yesterday (Sunday) with their problems. But I ordered an immediate ban on their operation. This is because they don’t have driving licences, registration numbers etc. They run at a speed of 20km to 25km per hour. In case of any accident, who will be held responsible? They were never issued road permits or designated routes and hence, are illegal,” traffic superintendent of police (SP) Rajeev Ranjan told The Telegraph.

Two entrepreneurs had introduced the e-rickshaw service, which was very popular in Delhi till it was banned on the same grounds, in Ranchi last December.

Traffic police now seem to be banking on the Delhi High Court to shed light on the motorised-non-motorised debate.

“I am aware that a PIL on the e-fleet in the national capital is pending before Delhi High Court, which will decide whether these should be categorised as motorised vehicles or hand-held rickshaws. Let the decision come,” the SP said.

Ranchi district transport officer Rajesh Kumar also could not enlighten much. “I don’t know under which category, the battery rickshaws fall. These are not registered at our office,” he said.

In April, the ministry of road transport and highways (MoRTH) changed certain rules in the Motor Vehicles’ Act, thus rendering all e-rickshaws plying in Delhi illegal.

According to the old rules, three-wheelers, with motor power of less than 250W and speed less than 25kmph, were non-motorised vehicles. But the changed rules say that “… a two-wheeler battery operated vehicle shall not be deemed to be a motor vehicle…’’.

As for the Ranchi ban, those who spent all their savings to buy e-rickshaws, which comes for around Rs 1.25 lakh each, are at a loss. “I am educated but unemployed, so I purchased an e-rickshaw. For the past two months, I have been running from DTO office to RMC to get proper documents, but have got nothing,” said Manoj Gupta, owner-cum-driver of a green auto.