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March 31, 2010

Kolkata plays host to rickshaw-pullers' race, underlines relevance of the cart

     Kolkata: In an attempt to increase awareness of the plight of hand-rickshaw-pullers, a race of hand-rickshaws was organised in Kolkata on Wednesday. Almost two hundred rickshaw-pullers participated in the event that was organised under the aegis of The Calcutta Samaritans, a non-profit organisation. Rickshaw-pullers raced against each other in the event . "Our objective is to organise the sports not only to give them recreation or to have fun, but also to make aware the civil society and other stakeholders of the state about their issues that rickshaws are very necessary for Kolkata," said Reshmi Ganguly, programme coordinator. "In a narrow lane, in many areas, especially during the rainy seasons, these rickshaws are very important because we are using it. All people are also using these rickshaws since many years but they are not involved in this movement, and they also don't know how to be involved. So our aim is that to make them aware about their issues through these type of events," she added. It may be recalled that the West Bengal Government, despite some protests, banned hand-pulled rickshaws in 2005. But rickshaw-pullers are protesting against the ban. "We are illiterate and there is no chance that we can get job anywhere else so we are requesting our government to pass our rickshaws so that we can run our rickshaws smoothly," said Bhagirath Yadav, a rickshaw puller. Chinese traders introduced the hand-pulled rickshaw to Kolkata in the early 20th century and sinewy, barefoot men pulling the vehicles are still a common sight in the city. Currently, there are around 18,000 rickshaw-pullers in the city.
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