The Supreme Court on Thursday permitted Maharashtra to introduce eco-friendly e-rickshaw in the Matheran eco-sensitive zone on an experimental basis to check its feasibility to replace the hand-pulled rickshaws plying in the area.
As the hill station does not allow cars since the British era, to commute within Matheran, people have to either walk or use one of the 460 horses or 94 hand-pulled rickshaws available for transportation.
Sunil Shinde, a retired school teacher and a resident of Matheran, had moved court seeking that e-rickshaws be allowed to play in Matheran.
“Hand-pulled rickshaws are inhuman and affects the rickshaw puller’s health. I had advocated for e-rickshaws and made an appeal to the Matheran monitoring committee in 2012. Since nothing happened, I filed a PIL last November before the Bombay High Court and the matter was referred to the monitoring committee,” he said.
He added that District Collector Mahendra Kalyankar, also the member-secretary of the Matheran monitoring committee, went on to write to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change seeking permission for e-rickshaw services but received no response.
“Finally, I filed a petition in the SC and it has now agreed to a pilot project,” said Shinde.
He further said that at the initial stage, the monitoring committee wants to press into service three e-rickshaws.
Surekha Bhange, the chief executive officer of the Matheran Municipal Council, said, “The monitoring committee urged the Supreme Court to allow e-rickshaws on a pilot basis and this was granted on Thursday. Now, we will approach some companies for e-rickshaws.”
Advocate Lalit Mohan, who appeared for Shinde in the SC, said, “The court was seized of the fact that in the 21st century, a section of the community is still slaving and pulling hand rickshaws.”
“The state that the presence of e-rickshaws can lead to congestion in Matheran… we also supported this and want e-rickshaws to be given to the existing rickshaw pullers. Hence, it was decided to hold a hearing after three-and-a-half months, during which a trial run can be conducted,” he added.
“The chief officer of the municipal council will comply with the pilot project plan,” said Kalyankar.