Friday, February 05, 2010

Into which Tukaram Shinde Gives, that Which One

This is another sad story. Tukaram Shinde drives a rickshaw, the three-wheeled contraption you see on Indian roads (aside: I may call it that, but it's my favorite transport). Seeing his rickshaw was new I asked him what it cost. He said Rs 2,30,000 (USD 5555). I say it would have bought him a proper car which he can run as a taxi cab, for a higher income, of course. He looks at me as if I am a squirrel who has lost his nuts (Andiillatha annan, is the correct phrase in Malayalam). But I hadn't reckoned on the basic economics of his beetle-shaped rickshaw, so adapted to the Indian scheme of things: in affordability, maneuverability, mobility, a wholly Asian concept in which short-limbed, bulging-torso-ed people with big plastic bags could fit in with ease. Just, move in, adjust paaleeeej! My son used to travel in one to school with ten other children squeezed into the back seat, some standing in front, and on child seated on the driver's lap between the hands that held the steering rod. Whew! The rickshaw can transport a family of three comfortably, which is my family: my wifey, Ronnie and me. Though, I must confess I have ridden to work in rickshaws with eight people including me and the driver. Economics, again, of an under-developed country with lopsided theory of development, which I abandon to economists like Amartya Sen.

Hm. Be that as it may!

Tukaram shared with me the economics of his new rickshaw, thusly:

  • Cost of rickshaw: Rs 90,000 (USD 2000)
  • Cost of getting a permit to run rickshaw (including bribes): Rs 80,000 (almost equal to the price of the rickshaw!) (USD 1777)
  • CNG (compressed natural gas) fittings and accessories: Rs 60,000 (USD 1333)

I will be dammed. Because for that money he could have bought himself a new Hyundai Santro or a Wagon R. Why didn't he? He could have ridden in style in air-conditioned comfort.

Because, he tells me, what will he do with a Santro in New Bombai? With a rickshaw, at least, he will get business, besides CNG is cheaper than petrol.

What I can't understand is the Rs 80,000 he has to pay to get a permit. Where does the money go? Into which Tukaram Shinde gives, that which one (sorry, got carried away!).

1 comment:

ms said...

tukaram also knows that his auto is safer than the santro: who wants to take the auto for a joyride? with the price of petrol increasing, CNG is the better option. and i still marvel at the dexterity of auto-drivers overtaking the honda, the hyundai, the benz, the beamer and two converging city buses!!