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A THING OF THE PAST? Horse-drawn carts are on the verge of extinction in Cuddalore.
CUDDALORE:The jingle of harness bells and the monotonous note of cartmen to spur the horses to stay on course are on the verge of becoming history. Horse-drawn carts are almost a rare find in Cuddalore today.
Only a few carts can be seen trundling along the narrow lanes of the Old Town area, competing for space with other vehicles. Though these carts keep a tradition alive, the patronage has fallen significantly, making it tough for the cartmen to earn a livelihood.
As commuters prefer speedy transport facility, the slow yet rhythmic thuds of horse hoofs are not heard much these days. During the days of yore when horse-draw carts were major goods and passenger carriers, they also supported ancillary traders such as horse-shoe makers and leather strap manufacturers.
The cartmen used to control the horse either with a mild pat on its back or a whip.
According to Selvam, a cartman who had been in the trade for over three decades, “Earlier there were 40 families in the area, which depended on the carts for a livelihood. Now there are only four.”
Each cart could accommodate a maximum of five persons. If the passengers carried luggage, three or four persons could be accommodated. The carts could easily negotiate narrow lanes and was a favourite of the residents of Sonankuppam and Bakthavatchalam market area.
Selvam said that usually fish vendors, fruit and vegetable sellers used the horse-drawn carts because they would not be able to transport their wares on other vehicles. He would charge Rs. 5 to Rs. 7 per head for a trip.
On an average, he might earn about Rs.100 to Rs. 120 a day. But, the inflation and rise in cost of animal feed had made it difficult for him to make ends meet, Selvam said.
Though he and some more cartmen had submitted representations to the district administration seeking financial assistance, nothing had come through.
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