This profile was prepared when M.A. Bari was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2006.
The New Idea
Md. Abdul Bari is professionalizing the occupation of rickshaw pullers through an innovative combination of training, a trade association, and access to low-cost insurance. He then adds structural benefits such as affordable healthcare and recognition from government authorities. Bari’s strategy is to offer incentives in one area such as insurance or identity cards and thereby engage rickshaw pullers in other programs like healthcare awareness. Bari’s training programs help illiterate rickshaw pullers better their understanding of traffic rules and regulations and consequently decrease the risk of accidents. Bari also organizes pullers into associations and unions which issue identification cards to their members. These cards have been a simple method of giving legitimacy to the rickshaw pullers when dealing with police and other law enforcement agencies. At present, 25,586 rickshaw pullers have completed their training and have obtained their identity cards. Bari’s work extends beyond the rickshaw pullers’ occupational issues and into their personal lifestyles also. He has begun offering health training for rickshaw pullers and their families. To ensure adequate healthcare facilities, Bari has created a network with Dustha Shashtho Kendra (DSK), a citizen organization, and Marie Stopes Clinic. Rickshaw pullers trained at Bari’s organization can access free medical treatment and purchase low-cost medicines from these institutions. He has also developed low-premium insurance policies that ensure that, if the puller is injured or killed in an accident, his family will receive a one-time payment to enable them to begin their life anew.