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RICKSHAWS, KOLKATA               April 4, 2010                                         As of 2005, the last sizeable fleet of rickshaws can be found in Kolkata , where the rickshaw puller union resisted prohibition. Several major streets have been closed to rickshaw traffic since 1972, and in 1982 the city seized over 12,000 rickshaws and destroyed them. In 1992, it was estimated that over 30,000 rickshaws were operating in the city, all but 6,000 of them illegally, lacking a license (no new licenses have been issued since 1945). The large majority of rickshaw pullers rent their rickshaws for a few dollars per shift.  Some pullers sleep in the streets in their rickshaws. In August 2005, the Communist government of West Bengal announced plans to completely ban rickshaws, resulting in protests and strikes of the pullers. .In 2006, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, announced that rickshaws would be banned and that rickshaw pullers would be rehabilitated.Kolkata rickshaws serve people "just a notch above poor" who tend to travel short distances. He added that some people use rickshaws as "24 hour ambulance services," as escorts for shoppers, and as a way for businesses to transport goods.  Many middle class families contract with rickshaw pullers to transport their children; a rickshaw puller who transports children becomes a "family retainer.Some Kolkatans do not like to ride in rickshaws because they feel offended by the idea of a human pulling them, and that some of them question the government's motives on banning rickshaws. Rudrangshu Mukerjee, an academic  said that he does not want to be carried in a rickshaw but does not like the idea of "taking away their livelihood.When Kolkata floods rickshaw business increases and prices rise. Pic Graham Crouch