India Insight

Hope floats for Delhi’s e-rickshaws after minister’s backing

The office of the New Arcana India e-rickshaw company is not easy to find. It is in a nondescript building nestled among other nondescript buildings in West Subhash Nagar, a middle-class neighbourhood of New Delhi.

If enthusiasm showed up on a map, it would be hard to miss the place. Inside on a recent Thursday, a meeting of Delhi’s Battery Rickshaw Welfare Association was in session. Steaming cups of tea were being handed out to members, mostly manufacturers of battery-operated rickshaws.

There are an estimated 100,000 such “e-rickshaws” working Delhi’s streets. Introduced in 2010 and operated by unlicensed drivers, they are a less environmentally harmful and cheap way to get around the city compared to traditional gas-powered autorickshaws and cars that are too expensive for many people to buy. They’re also easier on the operators than pulling a traditional rickshaw or riding a bicycle taxi. But transportation officials nearly made driving e-rickshaws illegal earlier this year in a bid to curb nightmarish traffic congestion and reckless driving.

“Police used to trouble us sometimes. They would stop us for minor offences, forcing us to stop work during the day,” said e-rickshaw driver Narendra Kumar, a bearded 60-year-old man and former street hawker.

The Delhi Transport Department first started issuing tickets to e-rickshaw drivers around September 2013. On March 6 this year, operators were asked to get within six months the government’s sanction that their vehicles met design specifications.

Interview: Nitin Gadkari on the election, BJP’s priorities and Amit Shah

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By Shyamantha Asokan

Nitin Gadkari is a top leader of India’s Hindu nationalist opposition party, which is forecast to emerge as the front-runner in the country’s mammoth general election. A series of opinion polls this year say that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, will win the biggest chunk of the 543 parliamentary seats up for grabs. Results are due on May 16.

Modi and the BJP have been wooing voters with promises to rescue India from its slowest economic growth in a decade, leading to much speculation over the party’s exact plans for economic policy. But critics say the party, and Modi in particular, could be a divisive force along religious lines.

Reuters spoke to Gadkari, a former party president and a member of the BJP’s manifesto committee, at his residence in New Delhi. Here are edited excerpts from the interview. The questions have been paraphrased.

Arvind Kejriwal: when lightning doesn’t strike thrice

(The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and represent his points of view only.)

Arvind Kejriwal’s dud of an expose on Bharatiya Janata Party chief Nitin Gadkari has caused some people to wonder why the social activist made his allegations in the first place. Is he trying to clean up politics? Or is he trying to clean up votes?

I like Kejriwal. He is a true activist. He gave up a comfortable government job to dive into the world of rallies and RTIs. He even won a Magsaysay award for it.

Shiv Sena, secularists and politics of regionalism

India’s ruling Congress party and main opposition party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have found themselves on a common platform after Gandhi family scion Rahul Gandhi slammed the Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) for their tirade against ‘outsiders’ – mainly north Indians – in Maharashtra.

Earlier, BJP president Nitin Gadkari invoked the constitutional right of every Indian to live anywhere, in a snub to erstwhile political ally Shiv Sena, whose agenda is to promote the interest of Marathis, sometimes with violent effect at the cost of non-Marathis, especially those living in Mumbai.

Waving the politics of regionalism is nothing new for the Sena and its breakaway faction MNS, who derive their political base from the ‘sons of the soil’ ideology.

Will Nitin Gadkari make a difference?

INDIA ELECTIONSNitin Gadkari has taken over as BJP President. At 52, he is the youngest BJP chief so far.

In the first of his interviews after taking over, Gadkari said he would like some of the old guard like Uma Bharti, Kalyan Singh and Govindacharya to return.

Two of these are identified with the temple movement and Govindacharya advocates the ideology of Swadeshi.

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