It is not a pleasant one, rickshaw operators usually are the lowest cast in indian society. The most useful they become in the rainy season when cars can not pass through the flooded streets.
They have been banned worldwide, including in the rest of India. And yet, 20 years on, there are still as many as 20,000 of them – 6,000 licensed, the rest illegal but officially ignored in exchange for the odd bribe – still pounding the treacherous streets of Calcutta.
All the pullers rents rickshaw from an owner (it costs around 50 rupees a day, (about $1-1.50)), a rich man you never get to meet. Most of them splits rent with another pullers. Avarage eraning is around 150 rupees a day [about $3]. They come from poorest india regions, trying to make a living. Many sleep on the streets beside their rickshaws, burning rubbish to keep them warm.
West Bengal government tried to ban hand-pulled rickshaws six years ago but rickshaw drivers went on strike against it and the government caved in. It did not looked good for communist government – to be seen to be putting the poor out of work.
In Monsoon season the water runs so deep on the streets, the yellow Ambassador taxis and the three-wheeled motorized rickshaws do not venture out. Only the hand-pulled rickshaws, with their high seats on giant wheels can get through flooded streets. That is when prices go up and most money are made. Common passengers are school kids of wealthy families and women going shopping.