At a time when the world is always taking the fast lane with little consideration for slow modes of transport, the Delhi High Court's observation on February 10, terming the ban on cycle rickshaws on the city's arterial roads "arbitrary" comes as an eyeopener.
In this context I recall the move by the court in reducing pollution in the capital's roads by forcing green buses and autos forcing them to go for greener technologies. The switching to better fuel saw pollution coming down in New Delhi.
A division bench of the Delhi High Court observed: "Planet earth seems to be running out of options unless unorthodox and sometimes unpopular policies are pursued. Whatever be the nuances about the technical soundness of the exact extent of global warming, the signs are self evident - erratic weather patterns, drying rivers and a depleting water table, food insecurity, retreating glaciers, drastically reducing forest cover."
Turning down the traffic police's submission that cycle rickshaw pullers create a nuisance on the roads, the court said: "It would be important for public authorities, particularly law enforcement agencies, to display sensitivity when exercising the coercive powers under various statutes to the vulnerable situation in which the underprivileged populations, of which the rickshaw pullers form an integral part, are placed."
"This is a fit case where authorities should explore all options to reduce road congestion and consider all proposals from an overall or holistic perspective," the bench said while forming a committee to explore the options available.
"Our country is vast with an ever-growing population, alarming numbers of whom continue to swell the list of the unemployed. In these circumstances, any opportunity towards gainful employment, howsoever slight, is worth exploring - it may be part-time employment or full-time, it may be seasonal or regional. If these are recognised as legitimate, the conclusion that cycle rickshaw plying is offensive to human dignity cannot be understood at all," the bench remarked.
Terming that every person has the right to earn their living, the court said:"Prohibiting a class of impoverished persons altogether of the chance of livelihood in a category of non-dangerous commercial activity, i.e. hiring cycle rickshaws for plying cannot be supported as a reasonable restriction."