Agartala: Tripura will probably be the first state in India to provide registration and licences to a new but popular mode of public transport - the battery-operated rickshaws, or e-rickshaws as they are know in Delhi and which have become a subject of controversy in the national capital.
The four-seater battery-operated rickshaws - locally known as tom-tom or tuk-tuk - have become very popular among commuters in Tripura after they started operating six months ago.
However, the battery-operated rickshaws encountered a minor glitch after their launch. Auto-rickshaw drivers and owners strongly objected to these eco-friendly vehicles, fearing loss in their business as the fare of the newly-introduced Chinese-made vehicles was cheaper (minimum Rs 5) than that of the auto-rickshaws.
This led the state government to think about registering the battery-operated rickshaws.
The Tripura government framed rules based on the "Tripura Rickshaw Niyamak Act, 1357" to regulate the movement of battery-operated rickshaws in urban areas of the state, Agartala Mayor Prafulla Jit Sinha told IANS.
"We have received 300 applications in Agartala from battery-operated rickshaw owners. After scrutiny of their documents, we would soon provide registration, route permits and driving licences," he said.
The Tripura Rickshaw Niyamak Act, 1357, is a princely Act enacted by erstwhile Tripura king Pratap Manikya (1350-1375 AD). Tripura was a princely state and merged with India in October 1949.
The present rules are being called the "Tripura Battery Operated Rickshaws Rules 2014".
The rules, notified in January, said a driving licence was mandatory and a driver must not be less than 20 years of age.
The licence would be valid for three years, unless it is cancelled or suspended for flouting any rules.
The licence fee of the battery-operated rickshaw will be Rs 300, licence renewal fee will be Rs 100, registration fee will be Rs 1,000 and trade certificate fee will be Rs 1,000.
The operator of the rickshaw will have to pay annual road tax of Rs 100.
"Police and the appropriate authority would seize the vehicle if the operator violates any rules," Sinha said.
The battery-operated rickshaws are helping a large number of unemployed educated people in Agartala and other parts of the state get a reasonable earning.
"Earlier, I drove an auto-rickshaw and I was not happy with what I earned. Now my earning has risen to Rs.300-400 per day, which is much more than the average income of an auto-rickshaw driver," 45-year-old rickshaw driver Ratan Mia told IANS.
"The best part is that maintenance and other expenses of the battery-operated rickshaw is very less compared to an auto-rickshaw. The battery can be charged with electricity at a very low cost," said Mia.
Manika Chakraborty, a commuter, said she was pleased to travel by battery-operated rickshaws.
"The journey in battery-operated rickshaw is very smooth and affordable. The rickshaw is also eco-friendly and comfortable," she said.