New Delhi, June 1 (ANI): The move to phase out the centuries-old horse-carriages from the Old Delhi has drawn the ire of 'tonga' owners, who feel the authorities are taking away their only means of livelihood.
Delhi has about 250 tongas that mostly ply in the city's old quarters, often ferrying passengers from the Railway station and traders going to the wholesale markets in the narrow and serpentine lanes.
Delhi Municipal Corporation has decided to cancel the licenses of tonga owners, as it feels they slow down traffic.
Many feel that they are not in sync with the city's image of a fast developing international center of glitzy shopping malls and shiny sky-scrappers.
But tonga owners like Manak Chand, who for the past 20 years has been carrying people on his carriage through the crowded streets, remain untouched by an economic boom which is creating thousands of white-collared jobs for its IT professionals and drawing billions of dollars in foreign investments.
"The decision of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) to ban the tongas in the city is wrong because all the Tonga owners earn their livelihood from it. Poor people, who come to the city they commute through this mode," said Manak Chand.
"It looks royal and everyone can afford it. It does not pollute. We want our tongas to be allowed to move in Delhi," he added.
The civic authorities, however, said nearly 250 tonga owners would be provided alternate means of livelihood and they are being given roadside kiosks to earn a living.
Delhi Mayor P R Sawhney said the tongas were an outdated mode of transport and the city needed to keep up with the changing times.
"We had meeting with nearly 250 tonga owners. Tongas are outdated in a city like Delhi. There is no special use of it. Today, we have all kinds of vehicles and we have told them that we are going to stop these Tongas," said Sawhney.
"We will provide them with roadside kiosks to earn an alternate livelihood. We have allotted space to them in Shastri market to run their own shops and earn," he added.
But the argument fails to cut ice with the Tonga owners, who feel that theirs is an eco-friendly means of transport with a heritage value.
Mohammad Harun, the head of the Tonga Owners Union, said it would be tough for them to start their lives afresh at this age.
"I don't know why is government doing this to us and snatching away from us our mode of livelihood. We don't know any other work. Our tongas costs nearly 50,000 rupees. They want us to sell them," said Harun.
"They will give us roadside shops on the other side of river Yamuna. How will we manage? We have been told to follow the MCD instructions," he added.
The romantic horse-drawn carriages were popularised during the British Rule. They trace their origin to the last years of the Mughal rule and were patronized by the nobles and royalty. (ANI)