Vol. 5 Num 981 Sun. March 04, 2007  
Star City

Rickshaw pullers get licences
DCC issues licences to thousands of rickshaw pullers

The authorities have finally started issuing driving licences to the rickshaw-pullers in a bid to legalise thousands of unauthorised rickshaws in the city.

Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) has opened 12 stalls at the Nagar Bhaban from where the applicants have to collect their licences through a simple process -- filling in a form and submitting four passport size photographs for future references.

"They (rickshaw-pullers) have to pay Tk 30 for a laminated copy of the licence, which would be valid for one year," said Syed Jahangir Hossain, the project in-charge.

"We also have medical experts and traffic officials examining the physical fitness and traffic awareness of the pullers before giving out the licences," he added.

During the establishment of 'Dhaka Municipality' in 1864, registration of rickshaws and carrying driving licences by the pullers were made mandatory. But with the rapid increase of rickshaws, the system has collapsed.

Now an estimated number of 85,000 rickshaws in the city have licences while another 4 lakh to 5 lakh are operating without licence. The number of rickshaw-pullers could be around 10 lakh, according to DCC and other sources.

"Although rickshaws remain as the most favourite transport of the city dwellers over the years, virtually no steps have been taken to standardise and upgrade the quality of the rickshaws," said an official at the DCC tax department.

He said DCC, with assistance from the Traffic Department of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), started giving out driving licences to rickshaw-pullers from February 18.

"Although applicants were scarce when we first started giving out the licences, rickshaw-pullers in thousands started coming to us last week and the crowd is getting bigger," said Shahid Ullah, another official of the DCC tax department.

"Currently we are distributing the licences only from the Nagar Bhaban but soon we will decentralise the distribution process and the licences would be available in the all the DCC regional offices," he added.

DCC's efforts to issue rickshaw licences last year failed, but project in-charge Syed Jahangir Hossain this time hopeful about the continuation of their efforts.

"We managed to issue only 960 licences during our earlier efforts due to poor response from the rickshaw-pullers. But I'm optimistic about the project this time," he said.

Both the rickshaw owners and pullers have welcomed DCC's latest initiatives.

"It's nice to have a licence which will recognise me as a legal driver and help me handle the traffic and legal matters properly," said Md Sazzad, a rickshaw-puller from Badda.

Munir Hossain, a resident of Malibagh who owns 10 rickshaws, told this correspondent that it is a good idea to issue licences to all the rickshaw-pullers. "There are a some unscrupulous pullers who tend to run away with rickshaws. Now with the licence it would be easier to take legal actions against this kind of people."

Mohiuddin Chowdhury, general secretary of Bangladesh Rickshaw Van Malik Oikya Parishad, said, "Licensing of all the rickshaws would not only regulate and ensure safe traffic conducts in the streets, but also would allow the rickshaw pullers to have a legal document to help them protect themselves from harassment."

"Moreover, in the event of any accidents it would be easier to verify the identity of the rickshaw-puller," he added.

Meanwhile, the Traffic Department of DMP has asked the rickshaw owners to attach a 6-inch by 3-inch light-reflecting sticker on the back of the rickshaws to avoid accidents during night time. The stickers don't have any prescribed design. Anybody can buy such light-reflecting stickers from shops," said Md Jahur, a traffic inspector.

Thousands of rickshaw pullers working in the city will soon receive licences. PHOTO: STAR