13/365 – The Puller
The cycle rickshaw was introduced in Delhi in 1940 as a a cheap mode of transportation and an alternative to hand-pulled rickshaws. Between 1975 and 2001, the quota of sanctioned cycle rickshaws in Delhi went form 750 to 99,000, however, high levels of corruption and antiquated laws, resulted in the government licensing only 1 in 14 cycle rickshaws and collecting over 100,000,000 rupees in bribes from pullers, owners and contractors.
It is estimated that close to 90 percent of the rickshaw pullers in Delhi are seasonal migrant workers who come from neighboring states – instant employment for unskilled laborers who need to earn a living to support their families between farming seasons. Between the rickshaw owners, the contractors who serve as middlemen to rent out the vehicles to the pullers, the parts manufacturers and the 20,000 mechanics who service this industry, it has been said that the labor of the pullers helps to support the livelihoods of five to six million people in Delhi.
With the population of India topping 1.2 billion people, 900 million of whom live within Delhi city limits, what would seem under most circumstances to be a fairly significant contribution by one of the poorest and most marginalized segments of Indian society, is really just a drop in the bucket.