Rickshaw Bank Receives Prestigious International Economic Development Award

Canton, Michigan, USA, Oct 8 2011

Rickshaw Bank, A project of the Centre for Rural Development (CRD), has been named as a laureate of the Flextronics Economic Development Award this year.

The award will be presented later this month in Santa Clara, California, USA.

The Flextronics Economic Development Award is a part of the Tech Awards, named after the prestigious Tech Museum in Silicon Valley, California. The awards are in five categories - Environment, Economic Development, Education, Equality, and Health. Each category has multiple laureates and one laureate in each category will receive a cash award of $50,000, to be announced during the awards ceremony on October 20, 2011.

Rickshaw Bank was named a laureate for its social development impact to improve the lives of thousands of marginalized rickshaw pullers with below-poverty-line incomes. Starting in 2004 with 80 rickshaw pullers in Guwahati, the program has scaled to 5,000 pullers all over Assam.

The project provides an asset-based loan to the puller to purchase a technologically superior rickshaw, known as the Dip Bahan, originally designed by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Guwahati, and manufactured by CRD. Pullers are able to pay off the loan to CRD agents in convenient daily installments over a period of 18 months, after which they can keep all their daily earnings as owners. CRD also provides the following services to the pullers:

  • Licences/training on rules and regulations
  • Uniforms to help identify drivers
  • Property, casualty insurance
  • Cooking gas connections for families
  • Cash loans, after full on-time repayment of rickshaw loan
  • Low cost health care services for the family

Dr. Amarendra Kumar Das, Head of the Department of Design, led the team in IIT Guwahati that originally designed the Dip Bahan. Based on active field testing in partnership with CRD and other organizations, the Dip Bahan has made over 30 improvements to the traditional rickshaw design, including:

  • Lowered rickshaw weight to 75 kg from 95-105 kg to reduce strain on the puller
  • Lowered footrest to 17 inches from 21.5 inches to help women, children, and elderly people in getting on and off
  • Changed the brake and lighting systems to make it safer
  • Added better covering from sun and rain for both puller and passengers
  • Used tubular iron pipe instead of wood for body parts to increase functioning life
  • Added more luggage space for passengers

Assam Foundation of North America (AFNA), a volunteer-based non-profit organization registered in USA, that has served charitable interests of Assam and the USA since 1982, submitted the application for this award. As part of the application process, AFNA submitted detailed information about the contributions of all stakeholders in the Rickshaw Bank project, including those of CRD and IIT Guwahati. Representatives from AFNA will join the executive director of CRD, Dr. Pradip Kumar Sarmah, who has been invited by the awards organization to attend the ceremony.

AFNA is proud to be able to support this effort involving two organizations from Assam, whose combined contributions are benefitting one of the poorest segments of urban workers in India.

Further information about the organizations named in this press release can be found at the web sites listed below: