rickshaw pullers lifestyle

The life style and surviving strategy of rickshaw puller at SUST campus 


Rickshaw, one of the principal means of transport in the urban areas of Bangladesh. With the improvement of road communication throughout the country, rickshaw has now found its way into rural areas as well. As a mode of transport rickshaw was first introduced in Japan in the early twentieth century. This mode of transport became particularly popular there due to the Second World War situation, which made petrol and motorised transport scarce and expensive. Japan, however, had soon replaced rickshaw, nintaku in Japanese, with motorised vehicles and by the 1950s the cycle rickshaw had disappeared from Japan. rickshaw pullers lifestyle.


        Rickshaw can run Bangladesh for about a month and a half with the Tk374 billion, or approximately $4.8 billion, that they generate every year, according to conservative estimates based on official figures. The money supports almost 1.5 million rickshaw pullers and their families directly. Unofficial estimates put the number of rickshaw pullers at about 800,000 in Dhaka city alone.

               Economist Binayak Sen said the manual three-wheelers outweighed other vehicles of the industry as far as economic contribution is concerned. “Rickshaw is undoubtedly the leading contributor in the transportation sector even compared to air and rail services. He, however, refrained from putting an amount on the volume of rickshaws’ contribution in the current market.

         According to official data, rickshaw pullers earn about Tk450 per day for 26 days every month. Their net income, however, stands at about Tk370 a day. The Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics puts a rickshaw puller’s monthly income at Tk11, 517, plying 42km every day.

       Rickshaw pullers are the poorest of the poor in the various informal sector workers in the urban economy, not only in Bangladesh but throughout the developing world. Their contribution as a collective body of labour to the economy of Bangladesh is worth mentionable. Rickshaw pulling sector is also one of the largest source of employment, employing millions of people. Besides a huge number of rickshaw pullers, various mistries (repairmen), owners, body-makers, shop keepers selling cycle parts and offering quick hand pumping facilities, tea stall owners and many others are involved in the rickshaw sector. Estimating their number is even more difficult than estimating the numbers or rickshaws or their contribution to the economy. This study tries to empirically examine the economic condition of the rickshaw pullers in Shahjalal University of Science and Technology campus. The scope of the study is to identify and analyze various factors which are related to the wellbeing and changes in the life of rickshaw pullers. This study will enable in assessing their current economic condition and their survival strategy.


The objective of this study are:

  • To study the overall economic status of rickshaw pullers living at Shahjalal University Of Science and Technology (SUST), Sylhet, their income and saving, and
  • To study the ability to fulfil their basic needs (before and after entering this section) and identify the change in livelihood pattern of rickshaw pullers. 

Literature Review

Tamanna, M. (2012) conducted a study to answer a specific question “what are the livelihood and working conditions of the rickshaw drivers in Dhaka city?” with an assumption that rickshaw drivers are poor and vulnerable in terms of income asset and health during and after they have their occupation. The study reveals that as an urban poor, the rickshaw drivers live in overcrowded housing including inadequate access to water, sanitation and other social services. However, in terms of capital assets, the rickshaw driver’s livelihood are mainly constituted with human capital, social and political capital, physical capital and financial capital but in varying degrees.

            On the other hand, the rickshaw drivers mostly maintain a reciprocal relationship with their households and with the rickshaw owners. And after leaving the occupation, they mostly depend on their family and adult children.

“Rickshaw Pulling and change in life :- A case study of Uttara in Dhaka city”  Abdullah –Al-Baki  approved by  Dr.Nasir Uddin Ahmed (march ,2013) institute of Governance studies  Brac University .Baki(2013) studied his paper through four case studies .From the analysis  findings and case studies of Dhaka city, He tried to show that by rickshaw pulling it is possible to survive in the challenging world but having change and development in life is very hard job. Most f the cases where there is support from others income line wife’s income or income from others sources. He also claimed that the cost of living is going rapidly very high than the income level increases, so it remains challenges every time. He also summarized from his analysis that living condition was not change because they live in the slums, rented house like slums or remain as before in the villages. But he gave a hope that there are some positive change in repaying debt and savings of some of the rickshaw   pullers.

“Pulling Rickshaw in the city of Dhaka:- A way    out of poverty”  Begum’s  and Sen ,B(2013) conducted a research based on a study drawing on information from current and former rickshaw pullers in Dhaka ,Bangladesh. The study was based on a sample of 420 current pullers and 98 former rickshaw pullers who at the time of the survey (April – June, 2003) were all living and working in Dhaka. A stratified sample was drawn at random from different points in the city, and all age groups were included. Selected rickshaw pullers were interviewed using a more detailed structured questionnaire. Most rickshaw puller came from very poor rural background and had found rickshaw pulling to be somewhat effective as a rout out of poverty .Upon entering the city, rickshaw pulling appears to be a relatively easy livelihood option. And analysis of changing household fortunes over time suggest that those who remain occupation for a few years do attain a degree of modest upward mobility. The main advantages that a rickshaw puller has over and agricultural laborer is not so much a higher income but rather a regular income flow.

“Informal Economy, Governance, and Corruption” by MD. Hedayet Ullah Chowdhury states the growing informal sector including rickshaw-pulling recognized as expanding source of employment in Bangladesh but the government discriminates this small enterprises. The article addresses the significance of the informal sector to increase the overall employment in the country. Developing countries like Bangladesh has surplus labor force, while, the raise of the informal sector provides employment for poor and uneducated labor force especially in the rural and urban areas.

            The author points out the structural changes in the economic conditions in Bangladesh that cause for the demand of informal sector in the country. From the development perspective, the widespread informal sector has significant contribution in the national economy of the country.  Chowdhury analyzes how some of the determinants of the informal sector such as the increase of taxation, market regulation, cumbersome business, corruption, political instability and lack of government policy work as the driving force of the informal sector. He helps the reader to understand the importance of the informal sector in terms of developing the national economy of Bangladesh; meantime, eliminating the unemployment crisis. Thus, the article reveals a concern that the informal sector lacks government attention. Since a large proportion of people involve in the informal sector, the government contribution could assist to eliminate poverty and manage proper wealth distribution in the urban areas. The situation indicates discriminated labor force in the informal sector due to lack of government’s attention. Therefore, Chowdhury suggests for proper government policy as well as administration in terms of managing the country’s economic and social resources to organize the informal sector well. Overall Chowdhury has portrayed the significance of informal sector to contribute in national economy and unemployment crisis illustrating the necessity of government support in this sector.

     The article Titled in “Rural-Urban Migration and Urban Poverty: Socio-Economic Profiles of Rickshaw Pullers and Owner-Contractors in North-East Delhi” illustrates a long investigation on the cycle rickshaw sector in north-east Delhi.  After conducting survey the article examine the present situations of poverty associated with people who are involving in rickshaw pulling. At first, the article explains the overall economic growth and development of transportation in Delhi, and then in that economic context they analysis the cycle rickshaw.  The article includes detail on how survey on rickshaw pullers were designed, and conducted. On the analysis part the authors not only provides their finding but also critically react on the survey results. The article presents analysis on social status of the sample rickshaw pullers, economic status of the migrant and resident rickshaw pullers, working conditions, earnings consumption expenditure, alternative job opportunities for rickshaw pullers, the role of the owner-contractors and  policy issues regarding rickshaw puller. Overall well-being of rickshaw pullers also discussed. At last authors presents all their statistical findings through table. The article seems very helpful to researchers as it clearly explains their methodology and every steps of their research. Therefore, the article seems as a guide line for the researchers.

Guide Questions

  • Name
  • Age
  • Family
  • Type of work
  • Which district you come from?
  • Why did you come to sylhet?
  • Why do you choose rickshaw driving as an occupation?
  • How many days work in a week?
  • Working hour in a days
  • Types of rickshaw ownership
  • Daily income
  • Life style
  • The relationship among with the other passenger and drivers
  • Do you have any future plan for the children?


Mostly qualitative data used in this research study. In order to answer main research question primary data were collected. For background information and extensive literature study was performed using journal papers and internet. The study has been conducted at sust campus. From this location randomly we have chosen six rickshaw pullers for conducting our focus group discussion.

 Data Collection

The study was conducted by Focus Group Discussion (FGD) and the whole conversation was recorded. The voice recording was transcribed into written form for the analysis and interpretation.

 Major Findings

In the study, we have tried to explore the life style and surviving strategy of rickshaw pullers at SUST campus, Sylhet. We randomly chose 6 rickshaw pullers for the FGD purpose and they were – Abdul Kamal (48), Rubel Mia (15), Gias Mia (34), Ruman Ahmed (27), Azizul Islam (43) and Rofikul Islam (24).

  • Except Rofikul Islam, all respondents were local people of Sylhet city. Rofikul Islam temporarily migrated from Netrokona district without his family. He claimed that in Netrokona, auto-rickshaw is more preferable than peddle rickshaw. But other respondents argued that this is not the only reason; they feel embarrassed to drive rickshaw in their own locality. Inspite of being non-prestigious occupation holder, Gias Mia wants to pull rickshaw rather than being exploited (e.g., construction workers are exploited by contractor).
  • Rubel Mia aged 15 the elder son of his family has to work for his father’s illness. Among the participants 5 rickshaw drivers drive rented rickshaws and they have to pay 70 taka per day to the rickshaw owners. But Ruman Ahmed owns 2 rickshaws; one he drives himself and other one for renting.
  • All of them are only earner in their family. But Azizul Islam’s elder son works as Bricklayer that’s why his family’s economic status is more stable than others. In addition, among the respondents only Azizul Islam can save 2000-2500 taka per month. But others have no savings for several reasons like – being only earner, big family size, no alternative earning source and so on. Moreover, in average all rickshaw pullers daily income 400-450 taka. However, on different festivals (e.g., Pahela Boishakh, Pahela Fulgun, Valentine’s Day, National Holidays) they can earn more money. On the contrary, during the time of varsity vacation (e.g., summer vacation, Eid, Durga Puja) they face lots of troubles to earn livelihood. To cope up with the situation, some drive rickshaw out of the campus, some lend money from moneylenders, some take loan from different NGOs (e.g., ASA, Brac, Grameen Bank).
  • Sometimes, they have to haggle with passengers as some of them don’t want to pay proper amount. They have no proper organized committee that’s why sometimes they quarrel themselves for picking passengers.
  • From the FGD, we found that no one wants to remain rickshaw puller. They are struggling for shifting their occupation. They want to educate their children. They want to break down their vicious cycle of poverty. Rubel wants to buy auto-rickshaw. And Azizul Islam determined to stop driving rickshaw within a few years.


The study was conducted to provide a better understanding of the livelihood, working conditions and capital asset utilization patterns of the rickshaw puller at SUST campus. The study indicates that rickshaw pullers are facing a struggling and vulnerable life. The overall study reveals that the rickshaw puller are one of the poorest sections of the society, and living in abject poverty but play pivotal role in transportation system. Therefore, it is imperative that the conditions under which the rickshaw drivers work and survive needs to be thoroughly assessed so that the rapid growth of urban poverty and related vulnerability can bring into a halt.rickshaw pullers lifestyle. rickshaw pullers lifestyle rickshaw pullers lifestyle. rickshaw pullers lifestyle. rickshaw pullers lifestyle. rickshaw pullers lifestyle. rickshaw pullers lifestyle. rickshaw pullers lifestyle. rickshaw pullers lifestyle. rickshaw pullers lifestyle.

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