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Ban buzz over e-rickshaws in Assam

Jorhat, Aug. 3: The Assam transport department is likely to ban plying of battery-operated rickshaws, as they do not have clearance from the Automotive Research Association of India.

The move is likely to affect youths who mostly ply these e-rickshaws in the state.

The battery-operated rickshaws or e-rickshaw (as they are known) were introduced in Guwahati and a few districts of the state with the three-wheeler gaining popularity in Sivasagar, the only district in Upper Assam where it has been introduced.

In the past two months, the number of such rickshaws plying has gone over 70 in Sivasagar alone.

The five-seater rickshaw valued at between Rs 1.3 lakh and Rs 1.7 lakh was becoming a favourite among the unemployed youths as no permit or licence is required for either buying or driving it.

The pollution-free e-rickshaw can travel at a maximum speed of 20km per hour and after travelling about 70km to 80km its battery needs to be charged through a cable, which has to be attached to any electricity point.

Pune-based Automotive Research Association of India, an industrial research association, established by the automotive industry in collaboration with the Union ministry of heavy industries and public enterprises to certify and regulate plying of vehicles in the country’s roads.

Transport department sources said all manufacturers of vehicles in India have to obtain a mandatory safety clearance certificate from the association in order to ply their products (vehicles) on roads in the country.

In some cases, if the association’s evaluation finds a certain type of vehicle does not qualify to be termed as a vehicle then the body declares the same as “non-vehicle” which does not need to be registered with the transport department and obtain permission to run commercially.

Assam transport commissioner Beni Madhab Doley told The Telegraph today that it had come to his notice that manufacturers of e-rickshaws plying in some districts of the state did not have the ARAI clearance to run such three-wheelers on the roads or the “non vehicle” certificate.

Sources said the manufacturers of such three-wheelers were Chinese-made and so have not been able to obtain such certificates.

Doley said he would be sending a directive to the district administrations, district transport office soon, civic bodies to prevent plying of e-rickshaws on the roads. “If some kind of misfortune (read accident) occurs because of faulty nature of the body of the rickshaw or any other defects arises while carrying passengers, then the state government will be blamed for allowing to ply the e-rickshaws.”

Sufi Ahmed, one of the dealers of Sivasagar, said he was not aware of the proposed ban by the transport department on plying of e-rickshaws. He said the dealers were procuring e-rickshaws (manufactured in China and assembled in India) from Delhi through proper channels.

Stating that e-rickshaws were pollution-free and were plying in large numbers in Delhi, Ahmed said the dealers would approach the government not to take any “drastic step” which will affect unemployed youths.

Several e-rickshaw owners in Sivasagar, who, too, are unaware of the proposed ban, said as they do not have a union of their own they would have to sit together and discuss ways to oppose the ban.

Sivasagar Municipal Board chairman Rana Khan said the board had issued rickshaw tickets to ply e-rickshaws, but would cancel the same if the government imposed a ban.