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After fare hike fight, unions ready for e-rickshaw tussle

There are also murmurs, union functionaries told dna, about the state transport department planning to issue around 1 lakh e-rickshaw permits for the state, many of them from the autorickshaw permit pool lying unused or having lapsed.

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After fare hike fight, unions ready for e-rickshaw tussle
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The big fight in the autorickshaw trade after the current stand-off on a fare hike will be one over e-rickshaws. With the state transport department giving 'in principle' approval to run this new category of public transport in Mumbai, Pune, Nashik and Nagpur, unions are gearing up to challenge the approval in court, if need be.

"We have been regularly saying that e-rickshaw is an unsafe vehicle for passengers as well as the driver. Moreover, its top speed of 25 kilometres per hour means that the average speed of the city's traffic, already very low, will go down further. That is going to lead to huge wastage of fuel for faster-moving vehicles, because they will end up burning more fuel due to slow-moving traffic. E-rickshaw is nothing short of a disaster that is going to make several families penniless once they buy it," said Thampi Kurien, chief of the Mumbai Rickshawmen's Union.

Kurien said he and his union has been studying the e-rickshaw concept and preparing the ground to challenge it legally, if the need arises. Calling it a conspiracy by some firms to sell hastily-assembled e-rickshaws to unsuspecting customers, Kurien said, "It isn't as if it is going to be cost-effective either. Our research shows that e-rickshaw will require a set of four batteries, each costing Rs7,500, which is a total of Rs30,000 a year. The fact that wear and tear will force the driver to exhaust two sets of batteries in a year means he will be spending at least Rs60,000 a year on batteries. Add the cost of charging the batteries, which will consume around 10-15 units of power a day, and you have a scenario where the cost per kilometre of running an e-rickshaw in Mumbai will come to around Rs7. That is more than autorickshaws, where the running cost per kilometre is around Rs2."

There are also murmurs, union functionaries told dna, about the state transport department planning to issue around 1 lakh e-rickshaw permits for the state, many of them from the autorickshaw permit pool lying unused or having lapsed.

This, however, was denied by additional chief secretary (transport) Gautam Chatterjee when dna asked a specific query on whether the state was in the process of readying 1 lakh permits for e-rickshaws to ply in Mumbai, Pune, Nashik and Nagpur.

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