Illegal rickshaws seized by law enforcers being
transported to the ‘rickshaw graveyard’ at Agargaon.

Rickshaw-pullers plan strong protest
Kausar Islam Ayon

Over 3,00,000 rickshaw-pullers of the city have planned a daylong strike on May 31 in protest the seizure and ban on their vehicles, harassment from police and other issues. Leaders of the Rickshaw Van Malik Sramik Shangram Parishad (RVMSSP), a forum of rickshaw-pullers and owners have vowed to continue their agitation until their 10-point demands are met. The list of demands include return of the estimated 40,000 rickshaws that have been seized, issuance of fresh license to genuine rickshaw-pullers and separate lanes for rickshaws on roads that have been made off-limit to non-motorised vehicles.

The leaders of RVMSSP said that despite repeated appeals to the government, no steps have been taken to address the issues.

"The government can fine us for the illegal rickshaws but they should give us back our property.

We can recover some of our losses by selling those rickshaws outside the metropolitan areas," said Insur Ali, member secretary of RVMSSP.

He also complained that without paying heed to their pleas, the government had already started donating the seized rickshaws to people in rural areas.

"The government is now allotting the seized rickshaws to the ministers and MPs and they are giving those to their party men in their respective constitutions. They are trying to buy votes by giving away our rickshaws," complained Ali.

Local Government officials in Dhaka admitted that they were allotting the rickshaws according to recommendations from ministers and MPs who are not from Dhaka.

"Most of the rickshaws have been distributed according to the recommendations from the ministers and MPs in their respective areas. But we are allotting the rickshaws only in favour of District Commissioners (DC) as per the government's decision," said Sabirul Islam, senior assistant commissioner, Dhaka Division.

He said that they have already handed over 32,000 rickshaws in this way.

RVMSSP members said they had submitted a memorandum to the state minister to the Ministry of Home Affairs in April last year. No measures have been taken on the basis of the memo.

"We gave the government a May 2005 deadline to address our demands. But they have sat on it. So now that the ultimatum is about to expire, we have decided to go for strong action," said Insur Ali.

He also demanded that the Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) establishes a welfare trust for the rickshaw-van drivers and stop issuing fake licenses.

"The DCC issues fake licenses and then they instruct the police to seize the rickshaws," claimed Ali.

"In a meeting with the DCC in 2001, they had promised to issue 43,000 new licenses. But they did not keep that promise. At least they should issue licenses to the existing unlicensed rickshaws," said Ali who added that they have filed a case regarding the license problem.