Rickshaws a hazardous plus for poor in Bangladesh

Fri Sep 23, 2011 2:16am EDT
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By Anis Ahmed

DHAKA (Reuters) - Mohammad Shapan drives a rickshaw in a small town in eastern Bangladesh. But the income goes nowhere toward feeding his family, so he heads for the nation's capital every so often in search of better money, despite the efforts of authorities to control him and thousands of others.

"The last time I came to Dhaka was ahead of the Eid," the 25-year-old Shapan said, referring to the festival that ends the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, which fell in August.

"I was happy to see my daily income rose three times. I could buy new clothes for my wife, mother and child for the Eid. It was a happy occasion for the family."

Rickshaws far outnumber cars on the streets of many Bangladeshi towns, and they are an important source of income for the country's poor, who often have no other options.

Yet the vehicles are a major headache for police, who struggle with licensing and safety issues for the estimated 1 million tricycle rickshaws on the road in Dhaka. Nearly half of all road accidents in the city are believed to involve them.

"The overwhelming presence of rickshaws on the streets of the capital is a growing concern as law enforcers often find it hard to take them off (streets)," said Benazir Ahmed, police commissioner of Dhaka.

"They ply, in many cases, without valid permits or are run by untrained drivers, causing accidents."

While nearly half of all motorized cars lack proper licenses and road permits, the number of rickshaws without licenses soars to 80 percent or more.   Continued...