Friday, September 21, 2012

Pulling rickshaws through Kolkata (Calcutta)

Yesterday I was in Kolkota, the former Calcutta and the capital of the Indian state West Bengal. This city with more than 14 million people is apparently the only place where one can still find the "Pulled Rickshaw".

Richshaw puller in Calcutta
Even though the Indian government tried banning the use of these ancient hand-pulled rickshaws over 5 years ago, there are presently still over 20.000 pullers. 

Richshaw puller in Calcutta
Often doing their work barefooted, they do not have their own rickshaws but rent them for a nominal fee of around 30 rupees ( 0,5 USD) per day.

Richshaw puller in Calcutta
Earning only a few dollars a day, it is harsh work for over 12 hours a day. These brave men say that they are only happy to stop pulling 2 to 3 people around, if the government gives them alternative jobs.

Richshaw puller in Calcutta

The defenders of this age old way of transport often point out that they keep the carbon footprint down. Another reason why the government has a hard time banning the pulled rickshaws, begins in June of each year, when the monsoon rains start flooding the streets of Calcutta. Often waist deep into the water, they are very much the only way of transport in some parts of the city.

Richshaw puller in Calcutta
Most rickshaw pullers come from the adjacent state of Bihar and are almost all over 45 years old. 

Rickshaw puller portrait
I would like to finish this series with a portrait of one of the pullers and a quote of Eli Khamarov; 
"Poverty is like punishment for a crime you didn't commit"

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