Maharashtra government’s decision to de-freeze autorickshaw permits in Pune will put eco-friendly measures to keep a check on pollution in reverse gear.

Even as regional transport officer’s (RTO) efforts to promote e-rickshaws in the city resulted in only one registration at Pune RTO since its launch in September 2017, the government’s step may find another 12,000 autorickshaws on the roads to the exiting figure of 45,000 in the coming days. Rickshaw unions cite wrong state policy for lack of response to e-rickshaw.

The fresh application for new rickshaw permits has come after Maharashtra government’s decision to de-freeze autorickshaw permits in the city.

Earlier, following the Union government’s directive, the state had capped the number of taxi and autorickshaw permits allotted to cities with more than 10 lakh residents. Permits in cities such as Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, and Nashik were restricted from November 1997. In June 2017, the state announced that it would lift the freeze on permits and issue them without any caps, to curb permits being sold on the black market.

Post the lift of cap on autorickshaw permits, applicants can get permits easily, provided they fulfil certain terms and conditions. Earlier, they had to hire or buy permits, which was more expensive. Owing to this, there has been a steady rush of applicants applying for autorickshaw permits in the city.

Deputy regional transport officer, Pune, Sanjay Raut said, “Presently, the Pune RTO has received 12,000 applications for new autorickshaw permits. After checking documents, including licence, badge among others things, those eligible will be given permits.”

RTO officials told Hindustan Times that presently out of the 12,000 applications for autorickshaw permits received at the Pune RTO, 6,000 have been sanctioned and 700 to 800 new autorickshaws have already been registered.

With this, it is now likely that in the coming few months 12,000 more autorickshaws might start plying on the congested roads of Pune.

Residents have raised concerns that the rise in autorickshaw numbers on roads will aggravate the traffic situation and deteriorate the already worsened air quality of city especially when commuters have been demanding e-rickshaw facility on certain stretches of the city.

Raut said, “There has been only one e-rickshaw registration at Pune RTO so far and one letter issued for the same. E-rickshaw is a more eco-friendly and economically viable option for commuters but the response is poor so far.”

Deputy regional transport officer, Pune, Vinod Sagare said that dealers have been given the permission to sell e-rickshaws and a separate licence would be required for drivers.

RTO officials said that as e-rickshaws are new, drivers will take time to understand its benefits. “They will analyse the maintenance cost required for e-rickshaws and it’s financially viability,” Sagare said, adding that at least a few drivers should move to e-rickshaw and understand its benefits.

Autorickshaw Chalak Malak Sanghatana (owners and drivers) action committee’s Baba Kamble said that plying of e-rickshaws is not financially viable and hence, not many auto drivers have shown interest.

“There are no routes for plying e-rickshaws in the heart of the city. Also, the speed of e-rickshaws is very slow. Hence, e-rickshaws may cause traffic congestion and not a good option for autorickshaw drivers,” Kamble said.

E-rickshaws or battery operated rickshaws have been gaining popularity in many cities over autos and cycle-rickshaws, as it is proving more affordable for commuters over shorter distances.

In Pune, too, e-rickshaws were introduced for smaller distances and they became a hit among commuters of the areas they serviced.

ON ROAD

45,000 autorickshaws ply on city roads.

12,000 applications received for new permits at Pune RTO

6,000 applications sanctioned by Pune RTO