Friday, May 30, 2008

A Can of Sardines maybe Anchovies...

"A Can of Sardines" is such a perfect reference to the Indian
autorickshaw that can comfortably seat about 3 adults but is usually
overloaded with double the number plus luggage. Even more scary than
this are the 10 or 15 school children that are packed into this
vehicle like anchovies!!! But I wonder, is being packed in tightly
what keeps them from falling off of this vehicle, which not only looks
like a ball but also bounces just like one on the roads and rolls
between two buses just missing being crushed by seconds?

A very nice article in the Wall Street Journal talks about these auto
rickshaws in Hyderabad, the city where I grew up riding these all the
time with my mother and with my friends. "Tiny, tinny three-wheel
taxis, known as autorickshaws, are ubiquitous in South Asia. They are
nimble, cheap and popular: A ride costs just pennies. Passengers
leaning out each side of India's crowded auto rickshaws risk being hit
by passing vehicles; they can also make the auto unstable. But they
are also dangerous, and as Indian roads get increasingly crowded,
passengers are paying with their lives. Here in the southern state of
Andhra Pradesh, autorickshaws are involved in one-third of all
accidents, even though they account for only one out of every 20
vehicles on the road.

So the cops are cracking down. Police are enforcing long-ignored laws
against overcrowding, and officials are rounding up drivers for
training sessions. Drivers must sit through an educational video and
view gory photos -- autorickshaws crushed between buses, and mangled
on roadsides -- to qualify for a free lunch," says this article but
seems like all that come out of this is a free lunch.

According to the journal, "Several thousand drivers have shown up for
the training so far, including Nara Krishna Choudary, who has piloted
autorickshaws for 25 years. But he isn't changing his driving habits.
"If I try to stick to the rules, I won't get anywhere," says Mr.
Choudary, 54 years old, because "everybody else is breaking the

The tickets, however, have forced him to cut down on overcrowding.
"The police have become very strict" about that, he says."

Now when I go back to visit, I wonder how I ever sat on these without
falling off. I hold on to my little son so tightly, afraid that he
will bounce of my lap, while my little one says whee, as though he is
going on a roller coaster ride! At least I can feel safe that I am not
packed in an autorickshaw like sardines or anchovies...

Read the full article at ---

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