NyayaBhoomi, a Delhi-based non-governmental organization, has been playing an instrumental role in promoting auto-rickshaws and improving their services in Delhi since it was founded in 2002, under the leadership of Secretary Rakesh Agarwal. With more than 10,000 auto-rickshaw drivers registered as volunteer members of the organization, NyayaBhoomi, which means “Land of Justice” in Hindi, has been uniquely positioned to work closely with Delhi’s auto-rickshaw industry to create a just and equitable system for drivers and passengers. Here, we present some of NyayaBhoomi’s most notable work:
- Handbook for auto-rickshaw drivers: NyayaBhoomi published a first-of-its-kind handbook titled “Samadhaan” in June 2007, which outlines the “laws and procedures for auto drivers and tells them about their rights and duties, how to avoid touts/loan-mafia and how to become good citizens.” Printed in Hindi for the benefit of drivers, this handbook, according to Mr. Agarwal, has been immensely helpful for drivers in building awareness about their rights, learning about traffic rules, behavior and customer service.
- “Autotisement”: Realizing the potential of using advertising for social reforms, NyayaBhoomi was the first organization to facilitate and introduce advertising in the auto-rickshaw sector in an organized framework. NyayaBhoomi, under guidelines from the Supreme Court, helped get the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), which holds advertising rights in Delhi, to approve advertising on auto-rickshaws (and other public transport vehicles) on a revenue-sharing basis in 2008. According to Mr. Agarwal, some of NB’s initial successes in this area include:
- Custom designed auto-rickshaws that are better suited for advertisements (spacious back, side and roof display space, multiple inside panels)
- Light Emitting Diode (LED) advertising screens on the back of auto-rickshaws to enable nighttime viewing
- Quick mobilization of auto-rickshaws to meet MCD’s guidelines on the minimum number of auto-rickshaws required for participation in the autotisement program. The initiative is expected to include 5,000 auto-rickshaws by the end of 2010
- Auto-rickshaw cooperative: NyayaBhoomi aims to improve auto-rickshaw services in Delhi through the creation of an auto-rickshaw cooperative in June 2010 (a test phase of this service, named the Autorickshaw Star Club, was launched in October 2008). The cooperative framework is intended to create a brand image for auto-rickshaws by providing radio (call) auto-rickshaw service, improving driver behavior through training, instituting a formal fare collection system through GPS devices installed in vehicles, and creating an organized sector with employment benefits (i.e. insurance and pension policies, uniforms, regular vehicle maintenance) for drivers from revenues obtained through advertising. A video created by NyayaBhoomi in Hindi explains the benefits of an expanded Autorickshaw Star Club cooperative service for drivers and passengers:
- Public Interest Litigation: NyayaBhoomi is currently spearheading the filing of public interest litigations (PILs) to the Supreme Court to address some key problems in the auto-rickshaw sector in Delhi. These include PILs to:
- eliminate the cap on permits to introduce better transparency in issuance of permits by the Transport Department;
- reform licensing procedures for auto-rickshaws (currently, obtaining an auto-rickshaw license requires having a private automobile license for a one-year period, which is a constraint for many low income applicants);
- get the Transport Department to introduce dedicated stands for auto-rickshaws in the city, particularly at key locations such as transit hubs
Given the challenging issues faced by auto-rickshaw drivers and passengers in the capital city, it is promising to learn about the work being conducted by NyayaBhoomi.