Fazilka, a historical town and the district headquarters of Fazilka District is located in southwestern Punjab in India, about 325 kms west of Punjab State Capital Chandigarh. It is 405 kms to the south of National Capital Delhi directly connected with NH-10. Fazilka is 11 km off the international border with Pakistan. Ecocab is the name given to traditional rickshaw operation by improving its accessibility and quality.
In Phase-I, the effort has been to improve accessibility by initiating ‘dial a rickshaw’ facility for users. In Phase-II, the focus is on improving the quality of rickshaw to the use at same cost.
The underlying thinking behind the initiative is that the cycle rickshaw is one of the safest, most eco-friendly modes of transportation, also giving instant livelihood, but its usage has been declining due to high motorization. The basic idea was to strengthen the unorganized network of cycle rickshaw as a post modern technology in the area of Intermediate Public Transport System for Fazilka.
Nine Ecocab call centers have been established within the city to provide dial-a-rickshaw facility. Each centre is serving almost 1500 households. To cut down the vehicle out time, these centers are strategically placed along with a network of feeder sub centre so that after a phone call within 10 minutes Ecocab shall reach to desired location. This is mainly to facilitate household trips based trip to stop increase desired of personal motorised trip within the city; average trip length in the city is less than 3km, so it was easy to promote cycle based intermediate public transport system.
For society and users, the benefits are:
- Organized Intermediate Public Transport System at affordable price
- Saving of several hundred litres of fossil fuel and saving of 14500kg fresh air required to burn that fuel
- Better law and order in the city-employment
- Quality Ecocab service with modern ergonomically designed Ecocabs.
- Another better option for residents as emergency healthcare facility like ambulance
- Facilitation for visitors and tourists of the city
Over 500 registered traction men are self employed under Fazilka Ecocab project. For traction men (rickshaw pullers), there are several advantages:
- Free Accidental Insurance upto Rs 50,000/
- Free health checkup and consultation at leading private hospitals
- Additional revenue through increased latent demand in Ecocab ridership and advertisement
- Free education for family members of traction men
- Micro Credit and finance schemes by the leading banks
The rules for the traction men are:
- 30 Days Temporary Membership
- After 30 days, with due approval of 7 Member Ecocab Management Committee Permanent Membership, with that traction men can avail all benefits
- Rules like Fine of Drink & Drive, Dress Code etc which each traction man has to follow.
The design of the Ecocab in Phase II will incorporate the following:
- Light Weight-Reduced Weight to 65 kg instead of existing 90kg
- More luggage space
- Better safety with reflectors
- Comfort for both commuter and traction men
- Facilities like water cooler and magazines
- More advertisement space for more revenue
Some of the risks and difficulties faced are:
- Through some marketing strategies Automobile industry may discourage and create taboo for not to use rickshaw and this may remain as vehicles for the urban/rural poor.
- Political interference to decide over the revenue collected by rickshaw pullers (traction men) through pooling or advertisement
- Biased and unplanned physical growth (pedestrian and cycle exclusive)of the city toward motor transport may result increase the size of the city and discourage people to use rickshaw for longer distances.
The initiative has helped to organize Intermediate Public Transport System at affordable price. There has been global recognition of the initiative and Ecocabs or similar initiatives are being launched in other cities as well. The Punjab and Haryana High Court has itself recognized this as an ecofriendly mode of transportation and sent notices to the state governments to look into this mode which has the potential to replace carbon dioxide emitting motor vehicles.
First Published on SUM Net India, October 30, 2011