Horse Carts
Lose Race

Recent efforts to modernize transport services throughout Allalahabad might force out the city’s traditional horse rickshaws.As India adopts rapid urbanization, conflicts are arising between the modern and the traditional in more than on ways. On One hand it helps the middle class and the rich. But in India there is a large number of traditional transport such as cycle rickshaws, bullock carts, horse carts which provide the poor a cheap transport, and the modernization drive is robbing them out of this cheap option. Such drive is also taking away from thousands of traditional transport drivers their only source of livelihood.

In Allahabad today traditional transport is being demolished under a special government urban development scheme that aims to update public transportation on a national scale. The scheme, known as the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, incentivizes cities, such as Allalahabad, to invest in new modern transportation. While this development is positive for many of Allalahabad’s citizens, it will create fierce competition for horse rickshaws. Cheap, accessible, and reliable bus transport might be enough to drive the horse rickshaws to extinction.

Horse rickshaws are known as ekka or tanga in Allahabad. They have been a feature of the region’s roadways and motorways since well-before independence and supported much of public transportation before auto-rickshaws and buses came into use. They are cheap modes of mass transport, and especially helpful for residents of slums/poor neighbourhoods where few buses run and people can’t afford autorickshaws/taxis.

Today, over 600 Allalahabad families depend on horse rickshaws for their livelihoods. Taken together, these drivers comprise one of the largest unorganized labor sectors in the city. The drivers are predominantly from Muslim and Dalit communities. Most are undereducated and are from marginalized backgrounds. In many cases, horse rickshaw driving it the only trade they know.

If the government takes steps to wipe out horse rickshaws then these poor families will suffer what could be an irreplaceable source of livelihood. As we see in Ajeet’s video, the families of horse cart drivers are calling on the government to stop actions being taken to eradicate horse rickshaws. The city police has demolished the space the the horse rickshaw drivers used for parking. But if the drivers park along the sidewalk, police is charging them a hefty fine. The drivers are therefore asking their government to stop this unnecessary police action against them.

After this video was shot, horse cart drivers met city police commissioner with these specific demands. Ajeet Bahadur, the correspondent of this video was there to document this meeting. When he interviewed the commissioner, who promised to restore the parking space . The parking space has since been re-allotted to the horse cart drivers. This video has thus helped stop daily harassment by the city police of over 600 horse-cart drivers who can now use the parking space again.

More reports from Ajeet Bahadur can be viewed here.

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