If you have studied in Delhi University, the friendly helpful rickshawallah has to be one of your fondest memories. And now the students of St Stephen’s College have decided to return the favour. In a drive to ensure ‘clean and eco- friendly’ transport options, the Delhi government had launched three models of rickshaws over the past six months. While the battery-operated and solar power models focus on clean transportation, the third model is one designed and built by 12 students of St Stephen’s. Aptly called Sukun, this cycle rickshaw was recently launched by Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and has been designed as a temporary shelter that comes with a mosquito net, a solar-powered electric charger, fan, radio FM and a reclining bed.
The idea came out of a DU project on homeless people in the city, says Dr Javed Khan, who is a project coordinator with Mother, an NGO for the homeless at St Stephen’s Hospital, and has been working on the project with the students. Saurabh Chaudhary, a third-year History student, adds, “While doing a survey on the homeless in 149 homeless shelters in Delhi, we realised that 30 per cent of them were rickshaw pullers, so we thought why not build a rickshaw that could double up as a home at night?”
After six months of research and brainstorming, the students came up with an innovative design. “We realised that the biggest problem they face is a lack of blood circulation around their feet, which causes headaches,” says Arushi Massey, a second-year History student. In came two detachable planks to support the collapsible seat that opens up into a bed.
The rickshaw costs about Rs 16,000, double the cost of a regular rickshaw, but the students are also planning a micro-financing scheme with the government. “Most rickshaw [pliers] don’t own a rickshaw, they rent it for Rs 50 a day,” says Chaudhary, adding that the students have decided to keep the daily instalment to Rs 50, which would include health insurance.
While the group has received about 60 bookings so far, authorities at DU and St Stephen’s are locking horns over ownership of the design. “It is flattering to see everyone vying for our design. We are now looking at ways to reduce the cost of these rickshaws,” says Chaudhary.