Delhi, like other large cities across, is a dictionary definition for chaos. Car drivers ignore any rules of the road there are and compete with rickshaws and delivery wagons to fight their way through the city. They criss cross lanes of busy traffic as they try to squeeze past parked cars. But it’s not easy as vehicles are double, perhaps triple, parked at a variety of angles – both on the road and the pavement (or whatever is left of a pavement anyway).
Traffic policemen are on hand to direct the show, but they just add to the confusion – waving through diffrent vehicles at the same time. The result: gridlock. Horns are sounded but no-one moves. You can easily envisage being stuck in jams in narrow streets for hours.
And into this chaos, pedestrians and cyclists must somehow keep hold of their lives. It’s not easy. If you are following the lead of the locals, you just make a run for it – even if that means dashing across six lanes of deathly traffic.
The Delhi authorities want to restore some normality to proceedings and believe they have found the culprit: the autorickshaw. Painted in distinctive yellow and green colours, they have three wheels and are much smaller than a car but frequently carry up to 10 passengers, some clinging onto the side, of course. Yet as I write this there is outrage that Delhi’s chief minister wants them phased out within five years. Claims that they are uncomfortable, pollute the environment and that drivers harass passengers have not gone down well. Many of the estimated 80,000 autorickshaw owners live in slum conditions and worry about their own futures if they are banned. They see themselves as scapegoats for the problems associated with a three fold increase in traffic in 15 years.
Having travelled on autorickshaws in Delhi and in other big cities, I think an important part of Indian culture would be lost if they completely disappeared. Yes, by weaving in and out of the traffic, they contribute to the chaos on the roads. But they also add a lot, especially for overseas visitors. It would be a shame if this holiday highlight was banned. Keep the autorickshaws but work harder to boost other forms of transport.