More than 18,000 rickshaws ply the streets of Kolkatta. The Rickshaw Pullers Union claims they earn about Rs100 ($2.25) per day. Many believe that figure is grossly inflated.
Kolkatta is the last major city in the world where hand-pulled rickshaws still carry passengers. China, where some of the earliest rickshaws were invented, outlawed the “bourgeois and exploitive” practice in 1949.
Kollkatta tried to outlaw pulled-rickshaws in 1996, but the ban was overturned after citywide protests. The rickshaw pullers argued that it was no more inhumane than working in the mines or in the fields.
The city subsequently offered a payment of Rs 7,000 (about $155) for every rickshaw that was voluntarily turned in. None were.