Delhi to phase out auto rickshaws?

If the state government has its way, the three-wheeled creatures will soon walk into the sunset. Chief minister Sheila Dikshit told the state assembly that their “service is very poor.”

“It is not acceptable. We are exploring ways to phase them out,” she said.

“Government was in touch with auto-makers Honda and Bajaj to provide battery-operated, eco-friendly vehicles so that the existing CNG autos could be replaced,” the chief minister said.

However, the auto drivers are not obviously amused. They said they would bring the city to a standstill, if the government goes ahead with the proposal.

Reacting to Dikshit’s statement on the floor of the House on Wednesday, Delhi Auto-rickshaw Sangh general secretary Rajender Singh Soni said that the government cannot target all of them for the “wrongdoings of a couple of bad fish in the pond.”

“It’s not a joke. Today they say we are replacing autos. Tomorrow they will say we want to replace battery-operated vehicles. They can not punish all of us. The city government is playing into the hands of few brokers,” he alleged.

“The government should first look into the real problems. There is shortage of CNG filling stations. Auto fares are very low. Majority of the autos are owned by a couple of influential people,” said Dharmendra Kumar, who runs an auto on rent.

The auto rickshaw union said that they would hold a dharna outside the Delhi Assembly on March 22.

The commuters gave a mixed reaction to the development. “I am glad if such a thing is happening. City auto drivers have made our life hell,” said Snigdha Kumari, a fashion designer who lives in south Delhi.

“It’s good that government has finally decided to rein them in. But no decision should be taken in haste. The government should formulate a policy so that the new mode does not go the same way,” said Sidharth Kumar, an IT professional who lives in Laxmi Nagar.

Beginning in the summer of 2000, Hong Kong airport began operating a 16-passenger Mitsubishi Rosa electric shuttle bus, and in the fall of 2000, New York City began testing a 66-passenger battery-powered school bus, an all electric version of the Blue-Bird TC2000. A similar bus was operated in Napa Valley, California for 14 months ending in April, 2004.

The 2008 Beijing Olympics used a fleet of 50 electric buses, which have a range of 130 km with the air conditioning on. They use Lithium-ion batteries, and consume about 1 kW·h/mi. The buses were designed by the Beijing Institute of Technology and built by the Jinghua Coach Co. Ltd. The batteries are replaced with fully charged ones at the recharging station to allow 24 hour operation of the buses.

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