Srinagar : Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed various means of transportation since the last many years. From water transportation, bull carts, horse carts (tonga) to modern electronic imported vehicles, the evolution of transportation has brought a revolution in the transport sector of Kashmir. The recent introduction to the transport sector has been the electric rickshaws.
The e-rickshaw is revolutionising the transport sector of Kashmir.
To combat pollution, the initiative of introducing e-rickshaws in the UT by the administration is touching heights as stock from all the dealers are running dry.
Naseer Ahmad, Director of Kashmir e-motors said the demand for this battery-driven three-wheeler has grown exponentially in Kashmir. He said pollution-free rickshaws although don’t have designated routes so far in parts of the valley, but people have started booking in a massive way which resulted in stock getting dry across all the dealers.
While sharing more information about this battery-driven three-wheeler Naseer said, “An e-rickshaw takes just four hours to charge and gives a mileage of up to 200 kilometers. E-rickshaws with a lithium battery will take just 2 hours to charge, and also run on chargeable Lithium batteries during sub-zero temperatures.”
Ghulam Nabi, a dealer in Srinagar city said that e-rickshaws are believed to be an atmosphere-friendly alternative omitting less smoke.
“Due to the lack of public transport facilities, this e-rickshaw service will ease the suffering of passengers. It is really a good move and people appreciated it,which resulted in a good rush of customers. We receive customers for e-rickshaws on a daily basis. The sales will go up as the government comes up with routes for e-rickshaws. Still many customers come and purchase e-rickshaws,” he said.
To promote green mobility and make electric two-wheelers more affordable, the government recently announced the revised FAME II subsidy. The newly amended scheme extends the subsidy amount for the battery-powered two-wheelers by 50%, which is Rs 15,000 per kWh.
A top official at the Transport office Kashmir said it’s great to see the demand for such e-rickshaws.
“If these E-rickshaws are found advantageous we will decide upon their route plan,” he added.
He said under the Srinagar Smart City project at least 20 electric buses are already running on different routes. These buses are eco-friendly. The air and noise pollution free electric buses are running on separate routes in both Jammu and Srinagar regions, having capacity to run up to 150 kilometers with one full-charge.
Once known for its Tonga ride, the Sopore town in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district is witnessing a new trend of e-rickshaws making traveling easy and affordable for the commuters.
The e-rickshaw is revolutionizing transport in Sopore as it has replaced horse carts in the town and the demand is growing.
“It’s comfortable and can accommodate many people,” says Muneer Ahmad Ahanger, a resident of Model Town Sopore.
“Moreover, travelling in an e-rickshaw is relatively inexpensive,” he added.
For many unemployed youths, eco-friendly rickshaws have become an attractive sector due to their low investment and high yield.
“Right now, there are four e-rickshaws running in the town and the demand is on a rise. With low investment and high yield, e-rickshaw is a hit these days. I receive a lot of calls from Sopore, Baramulla, Handwara and Sumbal areas of north Kashmir regarding the e-rickshaws. Besides generating employment, these e-rickshaws are making travelling easy and affordable” said Khaleeq Malik, the main dealer of e-rickshaws in Sopore.
“In 2013, I was in Delhi and happened to travel by an e-rickshaw and that’s where it struck my mind. If e-rickshaws can be used in hot and humid environments, why not in moderate temperatures of Kashmir. It took lots of hard work and effort to make it possible. This year in March, I finally launched four e-rickshaws in the town and the response is great. In coming days, more eco-friendly rickshaws will be introduced in the town,” he added.
Khaleeq started eco-friendly rickshaws for public transportation in North Kashmir on an experimental basis and aspires to start his own cab service very soon.
“People need comfort and we will provide them this at their doorstep. After the successful e-rickshaw services to the common people in Sopore, we are planning to start cab service. People can book a cab on a call and that will make it easy for the passengers to travel anywhere and at any time,” Malik said.
The chargeable Lithium battery operated rickshaws work during sub-zero temperatures and were introduced in 2011 in India and after that many states saw an increased use due to its high yield.
In Sopore, the e-rickshaws are running on different routes and connecting areas of Model Town, Bus stand, Arampora and Chankhan with a minimum fare of 10 rupees per stop.
“Tonga, Cab owners usually charge you 50-100 rupees for barely a kilometre or two but on e-rickshaws I just spend 10 rupees to reach the main market from my home. It is affordable and cheap,” said a passenger Abdul Rasheed Sumji, a resident of Sideeq Colony, Sopore.
The e-rickshaws saw a major modification before starting services in Sopore.
Khaleeq said that the weather conditions in Kashmir are completely different from Delhi and other states as we have winter and rainy seasons.
“On special recommendations, the company modified our e-rickshaws, put glasses on, covered it properly and made proper seating arrangements. High quality batteries have been used in these e-rickshaws to provide more working hours. We don’t want our passengers to feel uncomfortable, hence customisation was necessary,” he added.
He believes that change is the way of life and has even kept Tonga owners in a loop.
“Right now there are several youths who are working as drivers, salesmen for my venture. The offer is even open to Tonga owners, unemployed youth who want to start up their business. Employment generation is the need of the hour and e-rickshaw is a good opportunity to earn. I don’t want to snatch the jobs of tongawallas but assist them to run their business more properly. They can contact me and avail the services at an affordable price,” he added.
Authorities had earlier put a blanket ban on use of horse driven carts citing the reason for frequent traffic jams in the town.
The administration had assured compensation to tongawallas by helping them avail government schemes that would help them earn a better livelihood.
The locals in Sopore said that providing eco-friendly rickshaws to tonga wallahs will help them survive and earn a better livelihood.
Suhail Khan is a filmmaker, content writer, and freelance journalist.