By Priyanka Handique
The plight of people who are struggling to eke out a frugal living, the people on the fringe of poverty – I have always had a great interest in doing some research on them and I got a great opportunity to make a comprehensive study covering varied aspects of their life. The data that I thus collected and then alyzed made me gain a lot of knowledge and perspective on the state of life of these rickshaw pullers.
The present study revealed that out of the total sampled respondent rickshaw pullers, 55 % were illiterate while the rest 45% of the rickshaw pullers were able to get primary, middle and secondary level of education. The educatiol status of the rickshaw pullers indicates the degree of social development of the area of study. It was found that rickshaw pullers were extremely backward regarding education. It was due to lower income, poverty and lack of proper accessibility of the educatiol institutions, and the prevailing thinking about education – they considered expenses for education as unfruitful.
There are various push and pull factors which contributes as reasons behind joining any profession or work. The data in the present study revealed that there were various push factors like poverty, unemployment, low income, unskilled, illiteracy as reasons for joining rickshaw pulling. The main cause for joining the profession of rickshaw pulling was poverty which accorded for almost 60% of the rickshaw pullers.
Most of the rickshaw pullers, i.e. 47.5% were in the age group of 31 – 40 years, while only 25% of the rickshaw pullers were above 40 years of age. 27.5% of rickshaw pullers were under the age of 30 years. Thus 75% of the rickshaw pullers were below the age of 40 years because this occupation needs more physical labour and it is insecure for the people belonging to an older age group. For this reason, a large number of migrated jobless young people join this profession to earn livelihood.
It has been observed that 30% of rickshaw pullers do the arduous work of pulling rickshaws for more than 10 hours in a day, i.e. between 10 – 12 hours, 45% of the rickshaw pullers ply their rickshaws for almost 8 – 10 hours in a day and the remaining 25% ply their rickshaws for 6 – 8 hours of the day. . The rickshaw pullers almost spend the entire day plying rickshaws. They are bound to work even late at night and at odd hours and in inclement weather conditions without any protection or safety. The rickshaw pullers are deprived of good working conditions. And continuous plying of rickshaws without proper rest makes them prone to various diseases.
Further study revealed that 84.55% of the rickshaw pullers earned above Rs. 200 in a day. 77.5% of the rickshaw pullers did not own their rickshaws and hence, they had to pay a daily rent for their rented rickshaws which varied from Rs. 70 to Rs. 80 and even Rs. 100 per day in some cases. And yet the average monthly income of the rickshaw pullers is not bad compared to many other monthly earners in industry and other informal/unorganized sectors of employees.
These rickshaw pullers faced many problems while pulling rickshaws – rude behavior of people being the major problem accounting for 55% of the rickshaw pullers, followed by the lack of rickshaw stands which accounts for 37.5% of the total respondent rickshaw pullers. Most of the rickshaw pullers, i.e. 72.5%did not have any account with the banks. 45% of the total rickshaw pullers consumed guthka and tobacco. Moreover, 45%of the rickshaw pullers never go for a health check-up.
It us thus observed that the rickshaw pullers are victims of chronic poverty. Even though their earning is not bad compared to some other earners in the industry and other informal sectors but they are very bad fincial magers of their household income which is typically influenced by daily needs and wasteful expenditure on harmful habits like drinks, guthka, etc. Their intention to save money is not matched by their deeds and they have difficulties to save even small amounts of money regularly. As such they end up saving very little for which they are considered as the poorest and margilized section of the society.
The Government also, to a certain extent can be blamed for the sorry state of development of these rickshaw pullers due to lack of proper implementation of plans and policies. The study made by me will not suffice to alleviate the problems faced by the rickshaw pullers in any way. But it can at least create awareness about them and their situation. So I thought to publish my study. Thus my study can shed some light on these margilized humans – their lives a saga of human misfortune and suffering. And yet they teach us the lesson of fortitude and the spirit of hard work in their quest to stay afloat in their merciless struggle for survival.