Dozens of autorickshaw drivers – who are mostly migrants from Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha and Bihar – expect the switch to e-autorickshaws to affect their monthly income. Apart from this, other challenges can be lack of charging facilities, financial crisis to buy new vehicles, few possibilities to enable home charging and risk of battery theft.
“The (Khattar) Chief Minister has announced (the initiative) and it is very good, but there are other issues like charging stations and additional costs that we have to bear. All year 2020 I was back in my village in Bihar as there was no business here. So we are already under financial pressure,” said Monu Singh, a rickshaw driver from Madhubani district (Bihar).
As part of its “Parivartan” initiative, Khattar on Feb. 20 announced plans to phase out old diesel and gas-powered rickshaws in Gurgaon by April 1. Under this scheme, the cost of purchasing an e-rickshaw will have to be borne by the drivers, but they will receive grants of up to Rs 70,000 each for doing so. Autorickshaw dealers have also announced an additional subsidy of Rs 20,000 for the purchase of an e-autorickshaw.
The move is expected to remove the routes of around 5,000, more than a quarter of all auto rickshaws in the district.
“We understand the pressure from the government to reduce air pollution and the grant is indeed a relief. But running extra Rs 3 lakh (cost of buying e-autorickshaw) will hurt our employees as business has not yet fully recovered from the impact of Covid. Even if we get help with finance, paying interest (on loans) will hurt our pockets,” said Mahavir Singh, Chairman of Haryana Auto Drivers’ Union.
Other drivers’ unions have also expressed reservations about the lack of insurance coverage for vehicle batteries in the event of theft.
“There have been cases of battery theft. If they are not covered by insurance, it will be impossible for us to install new ones,” said Yogesh Sharma, General Secretary of Haryana Auto Chalak Sangathan.
Sharma said the government should come up with a policy to scrap old auto rickshaws. “If our old cars are bought at market rates, we would get around Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000, compared to the Rs 7,500 offered by the government for change,” he said. He was referring to the sum of Rs 7,500 offered by the government to drivers if they drop off their old autorickshaw at the administration.
Gurgaon Road and Traffic Authority (RTA) officials, however, said they were in talks with stakeholders to address concerns about the scheme. The administration will soon install 100 charging stations across the city and urge gas pump owners to also install electric vehicle charging stations, they said.
“The government has already solved most of the problems and we are holding regular consultations to allay apprehensions and try to meet the demands of these motorists. The issue of battery insurance and a better scrap rate for old vehicles is also being discussed,” an RTA official said on condition of anonymity.