The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has recently introduced a scheme offering financial assistance of Rs 25,000 for the purchase of electric autorickshaws in the city. This initiative follows the PMC’s previous efforts to promote environment-friendly autorickshaws by providing aid for converting petrol and diesel-run vehicles to Combustible Natural Gas (CNG). However, some drivers’ unions have raised concerns about the feasibility of the scheme, suggesting that a holistic approach is necessary for the successful implementation of e-rickshaws in Pune.
Under the scheme, the PMC plans to provide assistance to the first 5,000 electric rickshaws in the city using funds allocated by the 15th Finance Commission. The objective is to reduce air pollution and contribute to environmental conservation. To be eligible for the financial aid, electric autorickshaws must be three-seaters and registered with the Regional Transport Office (RTO).
Residents of Pune city who own a passenger electric autorickshaw can apply for the benefit through the PMC’s official website. The financial assistance will be directly deposited into the owner’s bank account. Online registration has already begun, and Deputy Municipal Commissioner Madhav Jagtap urges owners to take advantage of the scheme and help reduce air pollution in the city.
However, while the Rickshaw Panchayat, the largest autorickshaw union, appreciates the PMC’s initiative, they express concerns about its feasibility. Nitin Pawa, the convenor of Rickshaw Panchayat, points out that e-rickshaws are more expensive than their CNG counterparts. Therefore, a financial aid of Rs 25,000 may not be sufficient to encourage the purchase of new electric autorickshaws. Pawa urges the PMC to assist those purchasing e-rickshaws in obtaining financial assistance from the state and union governments.
Furthermore, the union highlights the need for charging stations across the city to recharge the batteries of electric autorickshaws regularly. They suggest that the PMC should establish charging stations at rickshaw stands and allow unions to operate them to ensure uninterrupted services. Lack of parking spaces and limited resources make it challenging for individual drivers to set up their own charging stations.
Moreover, the union raises concerns about the maintenance and repair of e-rickshaws. Currently, when a vehicle encounters a problem, it needs to be taken to the company for a check-up, which leaves the owner waiting for its delivery and affects their income.
The PMC has been actively promoting the use of environment-friendly autorickshaws since 2012. Previously, financial assistance of Rs 12,000 was provided to convert petrol and diesel autorickshaws to CNG. However, with the discontinuation of the scheme in 2020, only CNG or electric autorickshaws are now permitted to operate in Pune.
While the PMC’s initiative to support the adoption of electric autorickshaws is commendable, it is crucial for the civic body to address the concerns raised by drivers’ unions. A comprehensive approach that encompasses financial aid, charging infrastructure, and maintenance support will be essential to ensure the successful transition to e-rickshaws and the long-term viability of the initiative.