The Urban Canvas of the ‘City of Joy’ has more colour than any other. The city is the first to successfully install a Metro Rail (that too underground, like Tube rail of London) 30 years ago. Kolkata is now moving towards introducing automated fare collection system based on smart cards across all public transport modes. However, the city still has a huge stock of the most inhuman mode of transport – Hand-drawn Rickshaw.
Like a scar in the face of the city, people like ‘Hasari Pal’ are still living in this city and pulling people on their rickshaw. Be it scorching asphalt of the road during the summer, slippery bitumens during the monsoon or the cold during the winter, they are running barefooted on the roads while fellow humans are sitting comfortably on the rickshaw.
The burning sun at the 45deg C during the summer and the melting bitumen of the road – nothing stops the poor rickshaw pullers of the city. Dominique Lapierre wouldn’t have imagined that people will still be living Hasari’s life even after three decades of his novel which turned out to be the reason for the nickname – ‘City of Joy’. The city has failed to bring joy to the heroes of the novel.
Unfed or half-fed – the hand-drawn rickshaw pullers of the city are still providing mobility. It is undisputed that there has been serious lack of intervention from the authority to rehabilitate these people in better professions and improve the last mile mobility by some other mode of transport. Not only the authority, the citizens and NGOs too have not taken much interest in improving the lives of these people.
The ‘Hasari Pal’s of the twenty-first century are still waiting for ‘Father Stephan Kovalski’s to come to their aid. We can only hope that some miracle happens which removes the scar and let the face of the City of Joy glow in its full shine.
( The characters are based on the international bestseller novel – City of Joy by Dominique Lapierre)