Working Paper 2015-07

Title: The Battery Rickshaw “Crisis” in New Delhi

Author: Simon Harding

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This paper uses a case study of battery rickshaws in New Delhi as a lens through which to view the policy making process in urban India. Battery rickshaws are small public transport vehicles that typically transport passengers to and from metro stations for a small fare. In 2010 there were a few dozen in New Delhi; by 2014, estimates put their numbers at around 100,000. Despite their proliferation, the process of constructing an appropriate regulatory framework has been lengthy, antagonistic and dysfunctional, prompting the use of the term “crisis”. This paper briefly discusses the negative perceptions of battery rickshaws in New Delhi, which focus on the idea of informality. It then gives an account of the history of the “crisis”. The fourth section then identifies two factors which, it argues, are significant causes of this “crisis”: a) the polycentric nature of urban policy making and b) a lack of data upon which to base decisions. It concludes by following Roy’s (2007) contention that the policy making process can, itself, often be accurately termed informal.