On May 11, 2012 we shared the success story of
Manushi in getting the lawless and exploitative cycle rickshaw policy scrapped
by both the High Court of Delhi and the Supreme Court of India. (for details
click here: http://www.manushi.in/articles.php?articleId=1610&ptype=campaigns) It has already led to several positive outcomes:
municipal corporation employees and Delhi Police no longer have the power to
arbitrarily confiscate and destroy cycle rickshaws. This has meant a saving at least Rs 200
crores a year for rickshaw owners. Before the Supreme Court approved the High
Court order on 2nd April 2012, lakhs of rickshaws were confiscated
every year and released after extorting bribes. Several thousand rickshaws were
crushed and reduced to junk.
- The Court declared
the restrictive Licensing Policy as discriminatory and unconstitutional and is
overseeing the implementation of a simple system of "registration-on-demand". The devious provisions in the policy of
restrictive quota -- based licensing system had the effect of trapping almost
all rickshaws in a web of illegality that made rickshaw owners and pullers easy
targets of extortion rackets.
- The Court
ordered the Delhi Government to ensure equitable sharing of road space so that
Non Motorized Vehicles are provide separate tracks on all roads as per the
guidelines set in the Delhi Master Plan 2012.
As we all know, all good laws and most court orders
remain paper tigers because the agencies in charge of implementing them invariably
sabotage attempts at reforming laws and regulations. The High Court and Supreme Court orders
pertaining to cycle rickshaws were also systematically undermined and
sabotaged. Manushi is doing its best to
combat this through rigorous follow up in the field, interviewing rickshaw
pullers and owners and documenting on video instances of brazen attempts to
nullify court orders. With plentiful
evidence in hand, we filed a "contempt" petition in the High Court on 16th
August 2010. However, even while this petition was being heard in the Court,
Municipal employees and Delhi Police continued to terrorize rickshaw owners and
evolved newer and newer stratagems to extort money.
Here is an illustrative
example of the brazen disregard of High Court orders with regard to the ban on
impounding of rickshaws and the kind of stratagems used by the MCD to tyrannize
and fleece rickshaws owners and pullers and the enthusiasm with which the
police help the MCD mafia in their illegal acts.
Police Terrorise Victims and
On 28th April, a trolley rickshaw owner named Dhanik Lal
sought the help of Manushi in getting his illegally confiscated vehicle
released from the MCD dumping yard at Lawrence Road. This yard comes under the jurisdiction of the
Keshavpuram Police Station.
Photos of Dhanik Lal's rented rickshaw garage
Dhanik Lal lives in
Vijay Vihar Phase-II. He used to pay a rent of Rs 5000 per month to the plot
owner where he parked his rickshaws. (Photos of Dhanik
Lal's rented rickshaw garage). He told us that the monthly repair bill
for each rickshaw comes to no less than Rs 700. He also paid Rs 1500 per
month to MCD as protection money, and a similar amount to the local police. A
significant portion of his income was being spent getting back his confiscated
rickshaws since it MCD clerks demanded Rs 2000 to get each impounded vehicle
released. A new trolley rickshaw costs
him Rs 7000-8000. Thus the bribe for
getting one rickshaw released after each incident of confiscation comes to one
fourth of the total price of a new vehicle.
Between 2005 and 2012,
he lost 90 rickshaws to MCD's confiscation drives, decreasing the size of his
fleet from 120 rickshaws to only 30 today.
On 19.4.12, Bindeshwar
Sah was driving one of Dhanik's trolley rickshaws (TR). He had delivered a
consignment of construction material and was returning to Mangolpuri with an
empty vehicle. MCD employees of Lawrence
Road godown stopped the trolley rickshaw at Avantika Market and asked him to show
the "passing" (registration) papers for the vehicle. He was not able to produce
them because the MCD has not officially started registering rickshaws. The MCD
employees snatched the rickshaw from Sah and dumped it in the MCD yard right
near the Keshavpuram thana. As per
Bindeshwar's testimony, the MCD employees also confiscated 4-5 other rickshaws
that very hour from the same market area.
When Dhanik Lal reached
the MCD godown to get his vehicle released, an employee of the Lawrence Road
MCD office named Devendra told him to bring the following documents if he
wanted to get his TR released -
purchase of TR
papers of the TR
affidavit on Rs 100 stamp paper stating that the said TR was left on the road "lawaaris"
(ownerless) and therefore MCD employees had confiscated it.
Dhanik Lal told us that
such an affidavit would amount to his admitting guilt for an offence he had not
committed. The rickshaw was plying on
the road, not left "laawaris". Therefore, he refused to falsely implicate
himself in order to provide a mask of legality for MCD employees. When he approached Manushi on 28.4.12, his
vehicle had been under the illegal custody of MCD employees for 9 days, despite
daily rounds to the MCD office.
When Manushi volunteers reached the MCD dump yard
at Lawrence Road, the office room was locked since it was Saturday, an off day
for MCD employees for all purposes except collecting bribes. They took photographs of several confiscated
rickshaws behind a locked gate and proceeded to the local police station at
In the last few court
hearings Manushi was expressly advised by the counsel for Delhi Police &
Govt. of NCT of Delhi, Mr Najmi Waziri, to lodge complaints of illegal
confiscation by MCD, with the assurance that the Delhi Police would cooperate
in such matters. We used Dhanik Lal's case as an important test case for
assessing the genuineness of assurances given to us.
We were not
particularly surprised that, Sub-Inspector Ashok of Keshavpuram Police Station
(PS) refused to accept Dhanik Lal's complaint on the ground that the rickshaw
was under the jurisdiction of Rohini Police Station. The Manushi team informed him that the TR was
locked up in the MCD yard under Keshavpuram thana. Therefore, he could not deny responsibility. SI Ashok then said the matter did not merit a
police case since it is concerning MCD-a government agency. After the Manushi team showed him a copy of
the High Court order banning arbitrary confiscation of rickshaws, he asked our
team to let the High Court know that its order made no sense.
Manushi team then
proceeded to Rohini Police Station, where we were directed to go to South
Rohini PS. At South Rohini PS, the Duty Officer accepted our letter of
complaint after much arguing and persuasion, but refused to register an FIR.
Given the difficulty well-educated
volunteers of Manushi had in getting a complaint letter accepted, it is not
likely that barely-literate Dhanik Lal would have succeeded in getting a
complaint registered by himself. On the
contrary, he would probably have been beaten up for daring to register a complaint
against MCD clerks with whom the police have a cosy relationship. We were aware
that Traffic Police routinely confiscate rickshaws on flimsy and bogus charges
and hand them over to the MCD as they are not empowered to keep them in
thanas. The booty is then split between
collusive relationship between MCD and police became amply evident by the
incidents that followed.
Since the police took
no action after receiving Dhanik Lal's complaint on 28th April,
2012, on 1st May, 2012 Manushi team went to the MCD yard where Dhanik Lal's
rickshaw was dumped. There, Manushi team asked Dhanik to identify his rickshaw
and give a statement on video about the confiscation of his vehicle and the
false affidavit he was asked to submit.
Manushi team questioned MCD employee Devender, who was present in the yard, and
two other employees about the illegal confiscation, the MCD employees refused
to answer our questions or to release Dhanik Lal's TR. In an attempt to stop video recording they
roughed up the two male volunteers of Manushi. When Manushi volunteers phoned
the police, the employees left the place in panic. Realizing that neither the
police nor MCD employees had been willing to help us, we felt our only option
was to take direct action. So, Manushi helped Dhanik Lal get his rickshaw out
of the yard and video recorded the incident
By the time Dhanik's
rickshaw was released on May 1, it had remained with MCD for 11 days, resulting
in substantial loss of income for Dhanik Lal.
That very night, at about 10.15 pm, Dhanik Lal's panic stricken brother
phoned me saying three policemen and two MCD employees had forcibly taken Dhanik
to the police station. When Dhanik pleaded that he would go in the
morning on his own, the police constables threatened to beat him up and drag
him to the thana. The policemen also
took away the trolley rickshaw which Manushi team had helped to recover earlier
that Dhanik Lal may be beaten up in the thana and intimidated into withdrawing
his complaint, three of us (Sheeshpal, Ahmer and Madhu Kishwar) rushed to
Keshavpuram thana and reached there around 11.15 pm. In the meantime, I telephoned ACP Traffic
Satyavir Singh who is responsible for overseeing the successful implementation
of the NMV Project and asked him to tell SHO Keshavpuram that his constables
had acted unlawfully and that if any harm came to Dhanik Lal, we would report
the matter to Delhi High Court.
police station, we recorded our interaction with the SHO Vijay Kumar on video, though
he repeatedly ordered us to shut the camera. The SHO justified his constables'
actions by saying that one of the MCD employees, LDC Arvind Kumar, had
registered a case of theft of government property against Dhanik Lal and the
two Manushi volunteers ( Sheeshpal and Ahmer) who had helped Dhanik to recover
his TR. But he still could not explain why Dhanik Lal had to be dragged to
the police station at night at the instance of MCD clerks but the same police
paid no heed when Dhanik Lal complained to them about the illegal acts of MCD.
insisted that the SHO call Arvind Kumar to answer our questions.
Arvind Kumar said he confiscated the TR because it was parked "lawaris"
(ownerless) on the road. When Dhanik Lal
told him to his face that it was confiscated while puller Bindeshwar was
bringing it from Vijay Vihar, Arvind Kumar changed his statement saying they
had confiscated it because it carrying malba (waste material) and
stones. When questioned, he admitted
that there is no law banning a TR from carrying malba.
The MCD had used the same malba-carrying excuse to justify the
confiscation of TRs before the High Court on 2nd May 2012. Arvind Kumar also
agreed that it is a common practice for Delhi residents to use the service of
TRs to dispose of small amounts of malba because it is the most
cost efficient and readily available way of doing so.
a video clip of Madhu Kishwar's interaction with Arvind Kumar in Keshavpuram
Thana click here
story was absolutely false. At the time of confiscation, Dhanik's TR was
actually empty since it had already delivered the consignment of the day. In
any case carrying malba in a TR is not an offence. If all the garbage and malba of Delhi were
transported through diesel guzzling vehicles, Delhi's air quality would be even
worse than it is today.
leaving, we ensured that Dhanik's TR was returned. I also insisted on giving a
written statement to SHO Vijay Kumar stating his full responsibility for
recovering Dhanik's TR from the MCD's illegal custody to ensure that if a legal
case were booked, Sheeshpal and Ahmer aren't
harassed on account of false case against them.
On 2nd May
2012, Manushi helped Dhanik Lal to submit his complain to the High Court. The High Court took serious note of this case
and ordered the police to register an FIR against the MCD employees named by
Hounded out of Delhi for Complaining
against Illegal Confiscation of Rickshaw
since then Dhanik Lal has been coerced by the MCD touts and police to withdraw
the statements he gave Manushi and the complaint he registered in the Rohini
Thana. What is worse he was forced to shut down his rickshaw garage. His neighbors informed us that he had to make a hasty
distress sale of all his rickshaws before quietly slipping out of Delhi. The police also took away his SIM card and
asked him to avoid all contact with Manushi. We have not been able to trace his
whereabouts since then. The police hounded him out of Delhi to prevent him from
appearing in court to pursue his case. They cannot afford to take this case lightly
since the High Court had ordered the registration of an FIR against the
municipal employees who had confiscated Dhanik's rickshaw. The police feel duty bound to protect corrupt
MCD employees since they share the booty that comes from arbitrary confiscation
firm assurances by the Delhi Police and its counsel that rickshaw pullers would
receive assistance from the police in registering cases against illegal
confiscation of rickshaws, the police refuse to register complaints of rickshaw
pullers or owners when their vehicles are illegally impounded. In any case,
most rickshaw owners are terrified to make such complaints. But the very few
who dare complain with Manushi's help, end up with the police registering bogus
counter cases against them (as in the case of Dhanik Lal) in order to keep the
system of payoffs alive and kicking.
Posted on 21st September 2012