There was an interesting piece in last week's Economist on rickshaw-pullers. Apparently they're being outlawed in Kolkata, India, the last rickshaw holdout in the world.
The Communist government of West Bengal has long wanted to outlaw rickshaws, of the original man-pulled variety, that now exist only in Kolkata. Last December it did so, on the grounds that man-powered transport was inhuman. But what else are the thousands of rickshaw-wallahs, in one of the world's poorest cities, to do? Beg, is the best guess of a group of rickshaw-pullers on Debendra Ghosh Road, a typically crowded alley in central Kolkata.
Our good friends at Wiki provide some historical perspective:
The word "rickshaw" originates from the Japanese word jinrikisha (jin = human, riki = strength, sha = vehicle), which literally means "human-powered vehicle." Rickshaws first appeared in Japan around 1868, with the beginning of the Meiji period. They soon became a popular mode of transportation, since they were faster than the previously used palanquins (and human labor was considerably cheaper than using horses).
And just in case you don't remember when you were last carried around in your family's palanquin (great Scrabble word, btw), I've provided a photo below.