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Teresa Gilman

Everything is speeding up, isn't it. The new R.E.M. album is about that in part. That lowly (slowly?) rickshaw operator at the bottom of the traffic speed heap. What if he can't afford a motorized one? And how long before the cow gets evicted?




Funny -- I've been hearing for years that the hand-pulled rickshaw is to be banned from Calcutta, but it never happens. Your point about a slow vehicle taking up space is well-taken -- in Chennai you hardly see even a cycle-rickshaw on the main roads, but they have a place in the narrow back streets where cars are too big. But they're gradually disappearing now, overtaken by auto-rickshaws. Calcutta is so full of desperately poor migrants from Bihar, Bangladesh and Bengal's own hinterlands that there are always people willing to take up the rickshaw. The government needs to give free cycle-rickshaws to the pullers -- or to the contractors for whom they work -- if it really wants to see rickshaws go.


My wife's impression of Calcutta was of a city with no planning at all. Things must have changed in the twenty years since her visit.

I wonder of Calcutta's hand-drawn rickshaws will go the way of San Francisco's cable cars and be limited to certain tourist-frequented areas.


Teresa: Cows in India are sacred beings and therefore outside the economy. There must be procedures for moving them off of railroad tracks, but otherwise they have every right to be wherever they are, even standing in the fast lane of the freeway. So the cows are safe.

Nancy: Interesting that this idea has been around for so long. That seems to be part of how the political process works; ideas have to hang out there for a long time before they become possible.

Peter: Most Indian cities give the impression of no planning at all; I doubt Calcutta has changed since it made your wife's impression.

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