Rickshaw Market

Dhaka is the city of rickshaws. Dhaka cannot be imagined without rickshaws, which are part of Dhaka life, but the recommendations of the World Bank, IMF and other donor agencies is to evict them from the streets. Rickshaws are already banned from the so-called VIP roads in order to stop traffic-jams. Consequently the rickshaw is facing a struggle for its existence although it is an eco-friendly, artistic and non-motorized vehicle ideally suited to the Dhaka environment. In 1938 the British jute exporters of Narayangonj and Netrokuna (Mymenshingh) first imported rickshaws for their personal use. From the beginning the number of rickshaws increased rapidly. Besides the capital Dhaka, it is a popular form of transport in towns and small cities throughout Bangladesh. A survey conducted in 2000 says, there are 240 000 registered rickshaws in Dhaka city but in reality there are many more on the roads. Except for some roads rickshaw drive everywhere in Dhaka and do contribute to traffic congestion. However, taking rickshaws off the roads will not solve Dhaka's traffic problems. In the early period rickshaws were the mode of transport for the elite families; today it is the preferred the mode for the middle classes. Rickshaw pullers and rickshaw artists are usually poor, recent immigrants from the countryside, in most cases illiterate and poorly educated. Despite all of this rickshaws constitute an important source of income for the urban poor of Dhaka City and the home villages of the riders. A rickshaw puller's daily income averages around TK 250-300 per day in Dhaka, but it is less in the towns and semi urban areas. The pullers hire a rickshaw from a Garej (Garage) on a half or full day contract basis. There are thousands of garages and rickshaw making factories in Dhaka city. An important feature of the Bangladeshi rickshaw is its colourful artistic decoration. The academician generally scorns rickshaw art but in reality it is an important folk art. Within the industry some artists are greatly admired. The art features animals, scenes from the national struggle and Bollywood stars and other celebrities.