Bengal government wants to ban hand-pulled rickshaws but has not offered the drivers alternative employment.
There are thousands of rickshaw-pullers in Kolkata. Many of them are poor migrants originating from rural part of Bengal or Bihar, where agricultural work is not sufficient to sustain their family.
Zaffar Khan decided to shoot his video on rickshaw pullers with the hope that he could bring this in a new light, emphasizing the positive aspects of the practice that are often forgotten. “Of course, rickshaw pulling is very hard work, but it is also a source of livelihood for thousands of families. What’s more, hand puller rickshaws are environment friendly, and particularly fit to the clustered roads of Kolkata”.
However, the Bengal state government holds firm on banning this practice, which is seen as degrading and inhumane. “Bengal government wants to stop rickshaw pullers, but they do not give them other choices. They promised auto-rickshaws, but they did not fulfill this promise.” As a consequence, rickshaw unions have strongly opposed the ban.
For Zaffar Khan, it is important to first recognize the importance of this practice. As oppressive and exploitative as the practice is, it is a traditional form of employment for many, and unless they are slowly phased into other jobs, they should not be banned from the only thing that sustains them.