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The Last Days of the Rickshaw

Nandu Pandit weighs only 110 pounds, but he pulls more than 300 pounds on the streets of Calcutta, India, for about two dollars a day.

As a rickshaw driver, Pandit has one of the hardest jobs in the country. A rickshaw is a small carriage that has two wheels. Pandit uses his rickshaw to take people around the city. He works for 12 to 16 hours a day, sometimes in terrible heat.

“I feel hot and thirsty,” Pandit told a reporter. “Instead of pulling my load, I think of lying down.”

In some countries, people have been using the rickshaw for a long time to go from one place to another. People from China invented these carts about 200 years ago. About 100 years later, the British brought the rickshaw to India. Calcutta is one of the last places in the world where people still use rickshaws pulled by hand.

Calcutta's mayor, however, said that people are not allowed to use rickshaws on many of the city's streets. Many people think that pulling rickshaws is not fair to the drivers, because it is too hard and it does not pay well. India's government has agreed to help Calcutta get rid of these rickshaws. The government will help drivers buy modern rickshaws with a motor or ones that you can pull with a bicycle.

Many rickshaw drivers, however, are upset. Most are poor people who would not have a job if it were not for pulling a rickshaw down Calcutta's streets. Maybe the government will help them buy newer rickshaws so their jobs will be easier.