VARANASI — Prime Minister Narendra Modi Sept. 18 launched a new financial initiative — 101 e-rickshaws and 501 cycle rickshaws and trolleys distributed as part of the American India Foundation’s Rickshaw Sangh Program, in partnership with Bhartiya Micro Credit and other financial institutions and banks.
AIF’s Rickshaw Sangh program works with the country’s marginalized and exploited rickshaw pullers, promoting asset ownership of rickshaws, pushcarts and trolleys, and protecting drivers from exorbitant rents and cycles of debt by providing a first loss default guarantee to nationalized banks.
On the occasion, Modi said, “Our focus must be on how to make the poor of India self-reliant. This program will not only change the lives of a few poor families, it marked the beginning of an initiative that would bring about a change the fortunes of Varanasi.”
The prime minister had earlier interacted with some of the beneficiaries who received rickshaws and push-carts. He shared their dreams with the gathering, which ranged from a better education for their children to a boost in income that would result from enhanced sales with the aid of a pushcart.
AIF’s Rickshaw Sangh enables rickshaw drivers to own their vehicles by accessing formal credit, bringing income stability, dignity, and social benefits (including family health insurance and identity cards) to people in this highly exploitative occupation, according to a press release.
Rickshaw collectives take joint responsibility for a group of loans, guaranteed by AIF, for which they can own their own vehicles through easy weekly repayments over a period of one year. AIF provides the first loss default guarantee for these loans to nationalized banks.