We take tuktuks for granted, most of us. For Young school leavers mostly from rural schools and not so popular schools in cities , whos parents cannot afford private universities or education abroad, this is the easiest avenue for an employment. One doesn’t have to have passed OLevels neither be fluent in English, to get this job, unlike any 8 to 5 office work. Also you don’t need to go behind politicians to get a job in this sector, like state sector, because tuktuk driving is independent of any of those requirements. Probably that’s why we don’t see hordes of less educated youth in political campaigns these days , they don’t need political patronage to become a tuk tuk driver.
That’s the youth who rides tuktuks, everybody else too, take them for granted in various different ways. Take people who drive cars, when they are lost on the road when they need to ask for direction , who would come to their mind? Many of us will ask a three wheel driver , because they are not only reliable but most knowledgeable too . They have to be, because it’s their field of operation of course.
They are also useful as providers of information. If you in a unfamiliar village and you are looking for a long lost friend, you happened have only some scanty information on him , his family etc. where would you go to get further information and if possible directions to his house? You will of course go to three Wheeler Park at the junction. The young men at the park are a pack of young men from various scattered locations in the village. And also they would have many telephone numbers of their regular client. Asking them is like asking from whole village at a muster or tapping into CIA data base.
And for the villagers this is the , ‘the transport service’ available 24x7 at very reasonable rates. Decades back there were CTB busses plying in even not so populated rural roads according to time table ,like the 0430 bus for passengers travelling to catch Colombo bus and 2130 bus for mostly drunkards . These buses didn’t have sufficient passengers to be economically viable but service was maintained nevertheless, because of political expediency or sometimes because of the fear of village protests. This loss making routes were one of the major factors for the almost bankrupt state of the SLTB I suppose.
Nowadays of course SLTB has been spared of that burden. It is not an exaggeration to say army of over million tuktuks have pushed SLTB over the edge as the core public transport system in rural areas. You rarely see villages protesting on roads, demanding a bus service for a sparsely populated village, because they don’t need busses now they have tuktuks.
Considering all this reasons we all should be thankful that there is a tuktuk service in the country despite their scanty regard to rule of the roads. Its true that they are major irritant in traffic, they don’t look at the rear view mirror at all, just turn 360 degrees anywhere anytime, even if the width of the road is half the length of the radius of his turning circle.
Also If tuktuks didn’t join our transport system our society would have had closer to one million angry young men looking for jobs and we know what happen when such large numbers are unemployed without hope. Because, we have failed to equip them for any productive work.
The other main issue we would face if tuktuks were absent from our public transportation of rural mass is that it will come to a standstill without tuktuks. Just a single glance , at road traffic in the evening, is enough to realize the plight of the rural public transport system if the tuktuks are taken out of the transport equation.