The decision of the government to impose fresh ban on battery-run vehicles all over the country has caused a mixed reaction. People concerned over road safety would no doubt appreciate the move. However there are others, not only those who depend on these transports for their livelihood but also a large section of the citizenry, who find the decision too harsh in time of the pandemic-induced income loss. Earlier, in 2015, the government imposed a ban on all types of battery-run transports --- easy bikes, rickshaws, vans --- from plying the highways as a measure of road safety. But now wholesale banning of these vehicles from taking to the roads, even in rural and semi-rural locations, appears to be a shocker for thousands of families in rural and suburban areas across the country, who depend on these vehicles for their livelihood in the absence of viable alternatives.
There is no denying that these slow-moving, ingenuous transports are potentially hazardous when they ply on busy roads and highways and hence the move to keep them away from highways was well received. But the authorities concerned did not succeed to fully implement the move, and there were occasions when these vehicles were found to impede smooth movement of fast moving ones on the highways as well as cause fatal road crashes. According to some observers, it is this failure of enforcement that now has turned out to be the reason for country-wide ban. These battery-run improvised vehicles are structurally flawed and less stable compared with other vehicles. But the fact remains that since the government allowed import of these vehicles and also issued registration for them to operate, the flaws needed to be corrected, or if found not purpose-serving, import should have been stopped. In the absence of such necessary actions, imports have soared, and hardly is there a small town or semi-rural area where these vehicles are not seen. The total number of these vehicles is not known, as also the families dependent on them.
Another reason often attributed to the ill-effects of battery run vehicles is their consumption of electricity that, reportedly, go unaccounted for. Had there been sufficient efforts, observers believe, on the part of the respective agencies to ensure that electricity charges are properly paid or collected, these battery-run vehicles would have been spared of much of the blemish they are accounted for. So, the onus is on the agencies concerned to stop evasion of electricity charge payments, and it is their failure that has added to make these transports a kind of social evil.
It appears that the authorities are largely to blame for allowing these vehicles, and so the decision to take those off the roads, including those in rural and suburban locations do not at all appear to be well thought out. The authorities concerned should, therefore, attend to the issues before imposing a wholesale ban on battery-run rickshaws, easy bikes, vans and other modified vehicles that are used by a large number of people across the country. However, the decision on taking these vehicles off the highways and major roads should be strongly enforced.