Activists push for e-rickshaws at Matheran
As the toy train services were discontinued in May this year, tourists have no other way but to reach the hill station either on hand-pulled carts, on foot or on horseback
Senior citizens find it difficult to reach the hill station in the absence of proper facilities
With Christmas and New Year celebrations round the corner, one of the favourite weekend getaways of Mumbaikars, Matheran, is facing a serious challenge. As the toy train services were discontinued in May this year, tourists have no other way but to reach the hill station either on hand-pulled carts, on foot or on horseback. This is definitely creating problems for them, as the taxi stand is 3 km away from the entry point of the hill station. In view of the crisis, green activists have started demanding that the government should expedite the process of introducing battery-operated vehicles or e-rickshaws to ferry passengers.
According to figures quoted by a local public representative, on an average 500 to 1,000 tourists visit Matheran during weekdays and on weekends the number touches around 2,000 to 4,000. The representative also mentioned that during Christmas and New Year, the numbers may reduce to less than half as people will avoid the hill station due to lack of proper transportation facilities.
Matheran Hill Station Municipal Council (MHSMC) Nagaradhyaksha, Prerna Sawant said, “We will really appreciate if the government allows the use of e-rickshaws because not only tourists and senior citizens, even school children have to walk more than 3km everyday to reach school.”
'Handcarts are inhuman'
Meanwhile, another reason why the activists have been demanding battery-operated vehicles in the eco-friendly zone is because they feel use of hand-pulled rickshaws is an inhuman practice. Speaking to mid-day, Sunil Shinde from Shramik Rickshaw Sanghatana of Matheran said, “Using hand-pulled rickshaws is an inhuman practice and the workers who ferry passengers deserve to lead a life of dignity.”
Activists claim that the Matheran Municipal Council, Raigad district collector, Konkan divisional commissioner, secretary of the Urban Development Department and Environment Secretary have given their consent to start e-rickshaws, but the government is yet to take any steps.
Shinde said, “The chief minister had assured the legislative council in March last year that eco-friendly transportation services would be provided in Matheran. Tourists, especially women and senior citizens find it extremely difficult to reach the hill station as the taxis drop them 3 km away from the town. e-rickshaws are the best option in these circumstances.”
According to sources, of the 95 rickshaws available at the hill station, 50 are non-operational due to shortage of pullers. The main reason behind it is that the job is extremely tiresome and affects the health of workers in a big way. Those who pull the rickshaws have even complained of respiratory problems.
A rickshaw puller said, “Three people are needed to pull the rickshaws, mainly because of the hilly terrain. One person pulls the rickshaw while the other two push from behind. On weekends, we earn around R2,000, which is divided among the three. e-rickshaws will give us an opportunity to earn with dignity.”
Nalini Pawar (75), senior citizen
‘I had planned a trip with my grandchildren during Christmas holidays, but I cancelled it. Given my age, I won’t be able to travel on horseback or on a hand-pulled rickshaw.’
Devangshi Haria, student
‘Our college group was planning a trip there during the New Year weekend, but everyone is worried about travelling on horseback. Had the train been operational, we would have surely gone.’
Toy train suspended after two mishaps
On May 1, a bogie of the toy train with 30 passengers went off track. On May 7, a second mishap occurred with 100 passengers on board, as the train derailed near Aman Lodge station. After these incidents, the toy train services were discontinued.
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