What strikes me as astonishing is the complete absence of any complaint from anybody about the horrendous noise emitted by autorickshaws. Has nobody living in the suburbs of Mumbai noticed that about 80 percent of the autorickshaws on the road are emitting a much higher engine noise level now than they used to?

In fact the decibel level is well over double the legally permissible level. This is because the rickshaw owners have discovered that by cropping the exhaust pipes of the rickshaws they can eliminate, or drastically reduce the necessity of burning off frequently the oily residue that rapidly builds up and chokes the exhaust pipe.

This burning off process costs them money as well as earning time. They of course do not give a whit that by shortening the exhaust pipe they produce more noise than the public can tolerate. For people living along the main roads, such as Turner – Perry Road, Hill Road, etc. it is nearly impossible even to carry on a sensible conversation above the noise level.

It is a proven fact that excessive noise levels can seriously affect the health of the persons exposed to high noise levels for long periods; and we have been exposed to this maddening noise level day in, day out, from the wee hours of the morning till late into the night. This is certainly having a serious deleterious effect on the mental and physical health of the populace in the suburbs.

Particularly badly affected are the senior citizens and small children. Stress, inability to sleep, irritability, neurosis, cardiac problems, etc., as also more serious ill-effects of continuous, high levels of noise are medically established consequences.

Rickshaws with 2-stroke engines have always been heavy air and noise polluters and should have been banned long ago, which they have been – in the island city of Mumbai. The suburbs? Heck, who cares? All the important people live in south Mumbai anyway.

And yet, in the current uproar of demands by the rickshaw owners and drivers to increase fares, and the equally strident complaints of rickshaw users regarding non-availability of rickshaws and/or their refusal to accept passengers for short runs, NOBODY has brought up the subject of extreme NOISE POLLUTION artificially created by the majority of rickshaws. This issue MUST be addressed urgently for the good health of the public at large (in the suburbs).

This subject is quite apart from the other illegalities committed by rickshaws. At least a good 40 percent of them display no lights even when it is very dark. They merrily race up One Way Streets, as also through red lights, with no care for any-body’s safety.

They stop suddenly in the middle of the road, or make ‘U’ turns or turn offs without signaling. But they demand an increase in fares. What do their union leaders have to say about all this? Nothing.

So even if it is impractical to expect imposition of a law banning all rickshaws, because of a lack of political will, or on grounds of humanity, or convenience of the public, or whatever, the least that can be done is to enforce an upper limit to noise emission & air pollution. Those who do not toe the line should be fined at a level that hurts and repeat offenders should be de-licensed and taken off the roads.

The long-suffering public must make their Corporators and MLA’s take up this issue urgently before everyone ends up in the madhouse because of the incessant NOISE they are subjected to from early morning to late into the night. No civilized country can tolerate the terrible noise and pollution created by these monster vehicles.

Shyama Kulkarni