INDIA CROSSING THE RIVER GANGES Five years after ban; Kolkata rickshaw pullers yet to be rehabilitated. KOLKATA: Five years after the West Bengal Government announced its decision to phase out hand-pulled rickshaws from the streets of the city; the rickshaw pullers still await the rehabilitation that had been promised to them even as they continue to face harassment at the hands of the authorities. On August 15; 2005 Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had announced his government's decision to take the rickshaws off the streets as it was an “inhuman” practice. Subsequently a Bill was introduced in the State Assembly seeking amendments to the Calcutta Hackney-Carriage Act of 1919 with the purpose of phasing out rickshaws. “Although there are less than 6; 000 registered rickshaws on the streets of Kolkata; the decision affects the livelihood of over 20; 000 persons as the same rickshaws are used in shifts. Additionally; there are owners and supervisors who depend on them; " Avijit Mukherjee, an activist of Calcutta Samaritans, an organisation that has been fighting for their cause. After the Act was amended, the Kolkata Police and the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) stopped renewing licenses that used to be given to the owners and the rickshaw pullers, rendering their services illegal, he added. Officials of the KMC and Kolkata Police confirmed that the issuing of licenses to hand-pulled rickshaws had been suspended after the Calcutta Hackney-Carriage Act was amended. The rickshaws, often represented as an iconic symbol of the city, continue to ply on the streets, but rickshaw pullers complain about harassment by the city police, when they are unable to produce the licenses. Bishavnath Sau, a resident of Motihari district in Bihar is a rickshaw puller for the last 35 years and makes an average of Rs.150 a day of which Rs.30 is paid as the rent for the rickshaw. “I have been pulled up by the policemen several times over the last few years for my license. Later they let me go, but I lose a day's wages,” Mr. Sau said. “If we catch a rickshaw without a valid license, it is immediately seized,” claimed Gautam Banerjee, an official of the Kolkata Police. “We had been promised rehabilitation at the time when the law was passed, but nothing has been done about it,” said Mukhtar Ali, the secretary of the All Bengal Rickshaw Union that has filed an appeal in the Calcutta High Court. “No one cares about the rickshaw pullers as they are not a vote bank for any political party,” said Mr. Ali adding that since most of them belong to villages in Jharkhand, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh."