Varanasi, Feb.7 : Many weavers, who have been displaced or have been badly hit due to the slump in the Benarasi saree industry, will now earn a living by pulling specially designed aero-dynamic rickshaws in Varanasi.
Thanks to a rehabilitation programme started by a local NGO in cooperation with the Guwahati-based NGO, Centre for Rural Devlopment (CRD), the rickshaws have been provided on nominal installments.
These rickshaws have been provided under a Janmitra Rickshaw Project, a part of Rickshaw Bank Project funded by the Punjab National Bank (PNB), which was formally inaugurated in Varanasi this past week.
According to a trustee of the Janmitra Nyas, all rickshaw owners have paid an initial payment of Rupees 350. Besides they will pay Rupees 25 on daily basis for about a year-and-half to become rickshaw owners.
"Within one-and-a-half year, they will become the owners of their rickshaws. They just have to deposit their daily installment in the bank. They have opened a bank account also. After that they will not have to work under anybody. They will have a rickshaw available with them for 24 hours of the day so that they can use it any time. Generally, rickshaw pullers have to pay double the rent for crossing eight hours duration. Now, they will not have any such problem," said Shruti, a trustee of Janmitra Nyas, the NGO.
Designed by A.K.Das, a mechanical engineer by qualification, the aerodynamic rickshaws offer protection from both the sun and rain to the rickshaw driver and their passengers. It also has wide space for luggage.
"This is the modified version of the rickshaw, so it will make it easier to pull rickshaw. An IIT professor has designed this model of rickshaw. The NGO's are providing the rickshaws on reasonable rates. The NGOs involved in assembling this rickshaw are non-profit organisations," said Dr. K. C. Chakravarti, Chairman-cum-Managing Director, Punjab National Bank.
The success of the Janmitra Rickshaw Bank project will enable the Centre for Rural Devlopment (CRD) to help the 76 beneficiaries through housing loans from the PNB, Charavarti added.
Moreover, these rickshaw pullers have been given a life insurance of up to Rupees 100,000. The amount also covers passengers up to Rupees 20,000.
"The first thing is that I have got free insurance with the rickshaw. I am the owner of this rickshaw which is an achievement for me because in today's time I am not earning as much that I can buy my own rickshaw," said Abhay Narayan, a rickshaw puller.
The Centre for Rural Devlopment (CRD), a non-government organization from Guwahati has facilitated the sale of nearly 3,000 aero-dynamic designed rickshaws under similar projects in Guwahati (Assam), Surat (Gujarat), Agartala (Tripura) and Chennai (Tamil Nadu).
The CRD plans to replicate the project in 99 more cities, starting with Allahabad, Lucknow, Gorakhpur and Ghazipur in Uttar Pradesh, depending on the success of the present project in Varanasi.