Labor in India: A Rickshaw Driver’s Story
Mohammed the rickshaw driver shows a slice of street life in India.
A German citizen based in Singapore, Olaf Schuelke is an independent photographer and writer. His photographs have appeared in a number of international newspapers as well as on CNN and Discovery Channel Magazine.
Mohammed Komrulhoda, 57, works as a rickshaw puller in the streets around Kolkata’s New Market area, starting before dawn and usually carrying on until nine o’clock at night.
From Purvi Champaran, a small village in northern India’s Bihar state, he averages around six or seven customers a day. Each of them pays between 10 rupees and 30 rupees for a journey – the equivalent of 10 to 50 cents in U.S. currency.
His total daily earnings range between 50 rupees and 100 rupees, from which he has to pay 30 rupees for the rental of his rickshaw. At night he sleeps in a room shared with a dozen or so other men, paying 90 rupees a month for his bed.
Two or three times a year, he travels by train to visit his family in Bihar, journeys which each cost him around 5,000 rupees. Any money he has left after paying for food and his other living costs he sends to relatives in Bihar.
He has five children, two of whom – his youngest daughters – remain unmarried because he cannot save enough money to give them dowries big enough to attract suitable husbands.
Text and photographs by Olaf Schuelke
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