Saturday, 9 March 2013

Rickshaw and Bangladesh from economic perspective : one for another – why and how

Rickshaws in a small road in Bangladesh
The most common public transport in Bangladesh is Rickshaw. Rickshaws are seen all over the country - in the capital city, big major cities, towns and rural areas and even in the hilly areas. In Bangladesh people hardly need to walk. Once you are outside of your home to a nearby road or a lane, one or more rickshaws will appear within a few minutes, with the little silver bell tinkling to get your attention.
Despite of all critics the communication infrastructure has been developed last 25 years more or less all over Bangladesh. At every corner of Bangladesh, even in a remote area have roads that are paved with bituminous materials, concrete, cement or at least with bricks. Although the conditions of the roads are poor but communication is now much easier to drive a rickshaw on these roads. Not only this but there have also some other reasons that is why rickshaws are popular as a public mode of transport.
In Bangladesh roads are small and narrow in small towns, villages and even in the cities at residential areas. So rickshaws are comfortable transport to go through these roads.
A rickshaw in a village road in Bangladesh
Increasing income level of lower middle class and middle class people has raised the number of rickshaw passengers. Not only this but also people in Bangladesh don’t like to take a long walk carrying with some luggage to go somewhere. Climate of Bangladesh is not extreme. All around the year people can go out with more or less normal clothes. So it is not so difficult for the rickshaw drivers to drive a rickshaw (think about the European winter with snow) or not even for the passengers.
Rickshaw traffic in a narrow road in old Dhaka, Bangladesh
After marketing, easy journey to home by a rickshaw
‘’Rickshaw sector has a great contribution to Bangladesh economy. According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, in the year 1985-86 rickshaws contributed 34% of the total value-added by the transport sector in Bangladesh or roughly 984 crore taka or 9840 million BDT. This was more than double the contribution of all motorized road transport, 12 times the contribution of Bangladesh railways and 12,5 times the contribution of Bangladesh Biman, the national air line. Rickshaw accounts for more than half of Dhaka’s vehicles, 70 percent of its passengers and 43 percent of the total passenger mileage. Everyday about 70 lacks or 7 million passenger trips are made in Dhaka by rickshaws over a distance of one crore ten lacks or 11 million passenger miles. This is nearly double the output of London’s underground. Rickshaw provides one of the largest sources of employment in Bangladesh. In Dhaka over 700,000 people make rickshaw related work which is the largest single form of employment. We can count about 23 percent of the city’s workforce. At present more than two million or twenty lacks people all over the country find job in them. The great majority are rickshaw drivers, but there are also mysteries(repairers), owners, makers, shopkeepers(selling rickshaw parts, spear-parts and other materials), tea-stall owners and many others who survive on the basis of the rickshaw. The crud size of the rickshaw sector has important implications for the national economy. If we consider that for every male employed there are at least three dependents, then nationally around six million or sixty lack people depend directly on the rickshaws or 4,5 percent of the total population’’.(Rickshaw and Prejudice by Robert Gallagher,August 1998)
Rickshaws as a means of communication
In fact rickshaws are preferred travel mode or transport by women, children and the older people due to their safety, security and comfort perspective. In this context we can get our answer that why the numbers of rickshaws are increasing day by day. In Bangladesh especially in transport sector government takes no responsibility to build up a communication network. In every city and even in rural areas private sector takes the initiative to operate a somehow communication system. The whole country is overcrowded and traffic system is inadequate. Busses are over loaded although bus fare is cheaper than rickshaw fare but impossible for women, children, old and any physically weak or disabled person to travel by bus. Big or small cities don’t have any underground railway system or tram lines. So rickshaw is the only public mode to go somewhere. Rickshaw, taxi (difficult to go through a narrow road) or CNG baby taxi can offer a door to door service but the fare is much cheaper to hire a rickshaw. The Dhaka Integrated Transport Study report found that the rickshaw fare is more than double in comparison to bus fare for the same distance. But some 19,2 percent passengers use rickshaws while only 9,5 percent travel by bus. In a study the traffic dominance of rickshaw in Dhaka, Sylhet, Comilla and Rangpur cities are 49%, 78%, 80% and 55% respectively. (Source - Banglapedia )
A young guy finds his job as a rickshaw driver
A road side tea shop earns their living from rickshaw drivers
Every year a huge number of working force coming to join in the labour market of Bangladesh. As Bangladesh is a least developed country and government don’t affort to create sufficient jobs for the working force. The number of literate working force have a chance to find a job in industry sector like garments factory or any type of official job or even in service sector like  a seller or canvasser, in health sector or in manufacturing sector. But the illiterate working force coming from the rural areas to the labour market don’t have any jobs for them. They don’t have year around job and as a result of rural poverty this group of people migrate from rural to urban areas. They try to find jobs in the informal sector like rickshaw driving or in construction. These occupations don’t demand any previous experience or know how. It’s a question that why do rural migrants accept rickshaw driving as an occupation, despite its arduous nature. In a study done by Sharifa Begum and Binayak Sen in 2005 (Pulling rickshaws in the city of Dhaka: a way out of poverty?) shows the reasons that driving rickshaw is easy entry, especially for men who are illiterate, unskilled and lacking capital. Other reasons include the regular flow of income and earning more money. At the same time they can decide their working hours and own desire for choosing routes. Last few years a trend has developed that many people migrate to the big cities especially in Dhaka and drive rickshaw just for a month or little more. Now they try to avoid borrow money from others with a high interest rate for their children educational expense or other type of household needs they need a handful amount. Within a short period they can earn a handsome amount of money and return to their home. In my own investigation in Dhaka and Savar a rickshaw driver can earn on an average 500 taka per day. To hire a rickshaw for whole day 70 taka and for a half day 50 taka need to pay to the rickshaw owner.
A rickshaw garage and repairing center
By paying rickshaw fare to a rickshaw driver has a great socio – economic impact in our national economy. We can see that it’s a way to transfer wealth from middle class to the poorest. Especially Dhaka and other major cities rickshaw drivers send a significant portion of their earnings back to their villages, and may work seasonally as rickshaw drivers in order to raise money for farming. Rickshaw drivers of the urban areas actually supporting their families in the countryside and agriculture as well. So harming rickshaw drivers means harming poor villagers throughout the country and potentially our agricultural system as well. (Rickshaw bans in Dhaka city – Mahabubul Bari, Debra Efroymson; August 2005)
A seller of rickshaw accessories
We can make our own calculation to see that how much money flows in rickshaw sector. We count around 20 lacks or 2 million rickshaws are operating in the roads of Bangladesh. Very few rickshaw driver owns their rickshaw. We make a flat calculation. In an average rickshaw drivers pay 50 taka per day to the rickshaw owners. So the amount is per day earnings of rickshaw owners is 10 crore taka or 100 million BDT and per month 300 crore taka or 3 billion BDT. If we count that rickshaw drivers earn daily on an average 200 taka, so the amount will be 40 crore taka or 400 million BDT and per month 1200 crore taka or 12 billion BDT. From the lower middle class and middle class people 1200 crore taka  go over to the poorest group people of the country and circulate in our economic system.
A rickshaw rally for green environment
Now a days people all over the world is talking about ‘’global warming’’ and to keep and save a more green environment. Like Bangladesh, a most over crowed country in the world that don’t have almost any spear land to keep the country green can contribute in a way to a green environment by helping and develop rickshaw sector in a better way. We should think that rickshaws don’t make any harmful carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide in the air. Policy makers and mass people should consider the consequence of a well functioned rickshaw sector in Bangladeshi economy before taking any drastic steps and decisions. 

NB: All the images in this post are collected from different web sites. If anyone have any objection of using these images, that should be removed.

Read also : Rickshaws of Bangladesh and its history

                        Rikshaw in Bangladesh (Video clip)



  1. I appreciate your effort to expose Bangladesh in front of the world. Please include a post about the famous 'chowks' /intersections or crossroads of Dhaka with pictures. As during few past years Dhaka was decorated and especially the intersections at famous roads were developed. In Mirpur DOHS there is a 360 degree monument which is not even photographed yet. Can you please write about these road side or intersection beauties?
    You are really doing a wonderful job!

  2. This article is all well and good,Thanks for sharing with us.
    This link is informative:Population of Bangladesh

  3. These rickshaws turned our rural economy and keeping the environment carbon free.Thank you very much for your wonderful post.

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  5. This is an incredible and really useful and in depth observation. Thanks for sharing it. Keep the good job.