My Views

Women Auto rickshaw Drivers

Posted in New Delhi, Society, Women by dullar on February 25, 2009

There is nothing new in women driving vehicles, but it is not very usual that some women take it as a profession. If we go out on Delhi roads and see a woman driving a taxi, cab or auto, it will be an only exception.
Auto rickshaws, the green and yellow three wheelers, we see around in every nook and corner of Delhi are essential and integral part of the city transport system. According to Delhi Transport Department data there are around 76,000 autos running in the city and nearly all of them are driven by men. The rules and regulations for running of autos in city have been according to Delhi Motor Vehicle Rules 1993. But how strictly there rules are followed on the Delhi roads is in the knowledge of everybody. Almost all of us have one or more bitter experiences with the auto-walas. Most of them do not go by the electronic meter, they very often deny going, they misbehave with women and elderly, they dupe foreigners and non delhities, and they fight over the charges of luggage. With fact that Delhi roads are considered very unsafe for women, these auto-walas are very much part and parcel of that environment.
Under given conditions and circumstances the concept of women auto drivers is like a fresh breath of air. It will be an instant solution for many existing problems. The possible benefits are:
   1. Woman, biggest beneficiary-there economic, social and political empowerment.
   2. It will make Delhi roads safer for women and other susceptible groups like -housewives, college girl students, working women, and school children.
   3. Economical empowerment of women drivers will lead to development of their families and it will have a positive chain effect. It can be a new tool to dent urban poverty.
   4. Women are soft spoken, friendly. Tourist, both international and national will prefer women driven autos. It will help to make Delhi more tourism friendly. When Delhi is set to organize 2010 Commonwealth Games such women auto drivers will represent a very pleasant color in its hospitality.
   5. Senior citizens will feel safer with women drivers. They are generally misbehaved by the auto-walas.
   6. In a small initially, but definite and effective way it will help curbing road rage incidents involving auto-walas..
   7. Woman auto drivers will be friendlier to general public, not rude like the present male drivers.
   8. Make social environment more women friendly. Positive impact on psyche of people, women will be received and treated more fairly in the society.
Even after having such a strong logic for women to take auto driving as a profession not much ground has been covered. Sunita Choudhary was first woman auto driver who think differently in 2003 and stepped into this largely male bastion. At the most about 20 women drivers are already on the Delhi roads driving auto/taxi. Looking at the total number of autos, the reality is way below the potential. The possible reasons for this might be one or more of these:
   1. Auto driving has been a man’s profession in Delhi or otherwise, so entering such a profession might be very difficult initially.
   2. Getting auto drivers license might take some time for women who are trained from scratch. A LMV driving license takes normally 2 and a half month to be issued from date of application. After that, a license for commercial vehicle takes 1 year to be issued.
   3. Normally price for an auto is around Rs 4.5 lakhs if purchased from a dealer. Adding its interest will increase the price beyond Rs 5.5 lakhs.
   4. Safety of woman driver herself is a big concern, especially in nights in some isolated streets/areas. So such woman driver recruits have to be first trained in self defense techniques. Certain personal safety equipments have also to be provided.
   5. Psyche of women itself is a problem. Not many might agree for the profession.
   6. Family approval is another reason.
So there is a need of some institutionalized mechanism where some organization take responsibility of sorting out such problem as defined above. A Delhi based NGO have tried to make headway into the similar direction. It is bringing together educated women from lower income groups to train them in driving and self defense. Sunita Choudhary is also planning to start a new campaign “women on wheels” and has already started to train over 200 women for taxi driving. It has to be taken into account that the initial cost of driving a four-wheeler taxi is more than starting with an auto. The driving tests for the cab/4-wheeler taxi are more rigorous. But seeing the potential, these attempts, though commendable fall short of the desirable limits. There is a need for a more organized and concerted effort in this direction. A possible approach to achieve the above said aim can be thought in this manner:
   Step 1: Existing Reality- A survey of total number of women auto drivers presently on the Delhi roads. To know there experiences, problems and motivations.
   Step 2: Recruitment of educated women willing to drive autos. (LMV license and commercial auto license requires drivers to be minimum 8th standard passed). Create awareness and motivate women to take auto driving as profession. Such women can be directly contacted in their localities or through some organization helping women in employment creation. Wives of those men who are presently driving autos can also be one option.
   Step 3: Purchasing auto – Autos can be purchased directly from the company showrooms. Cost of an auto when purchased from a dealer is around Rs4.5 lakhs (with extra cost if purchased in installments. It can be funded by the manufacturer (Bajaj auto etc), or some other corporate as part of their Corporate Social Initiative. Such funding can also be on the basis of profitability, when the cost will be repaid in installments with due interest.
   Step 4: Training – Such training will include auto driving training, training in traffic rules, training in basic communications skills (including spoken English), training in self defense, training regarding first aid in case of minor accidents. Maruti Driving Schools, Hero Honda Driving and Traffic Training Park and some other driving schools can be contacted. Basis for such collaboration can be profit, CSR initiatives, and advertisement. Delhi Police, Delhi Traffic Police can be contacted for orientation cum training in self defense and traffic rules.
   Step 5: Publicity campaigns – Media, political parties, NGOs, company sponsored publicity about the motives and goals of entire exercise is an underlying requirement at each step mentioned above.
Success of this initiative will bring about a strong message to society in Delhi particular and country in general. It will not only be a humble attempt to make Delhi roads an equal opportunity work space but go on to be a significant step in sending a strong message for the cause of women emancipation and their economic empowerment. It will be a boost to their confidence to have entered a profession which has largely been a men bastion. No doubt travelling in an auto on Delhi roads will be a entirely refreshing and comfortable experience.

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