With the Maharashtra government coming up with yet another scheme to empower women, women auto rickshaw drivers hit the road on Monday in Mumbai. The scheme, which was introduced last year, provided a five percent reservation in rickshaw permits for women, according to India Times.
This meant that 465 women could get a permit, and 19 women started driving in Mumbai this week. Women in Thane had started last year. This has come as a huge relief to a lot of women, whose only other option was to become domestic help, where there was no social security and considerable chances of them being exploited. These women are fighting all kinds of social stigma to take up auto rickshaw driving as a profession.
Chaya Mohite, mother of three and one of the first women auto rickshaw drivers in Mumbai, told NDTV,
"This job is much better than doing household work. I can make more money and it helps us secure our futures..... I couldn't even ride a bicycle, but today, I can drive an auto rickshaw. I'm independent, and it makes me happy."
It is noteworthy that the government had earlier launched a pink taxi scheme, wherein women drivers would drive women all through the city. However, as Mumbai is a largely congested city and more people prefer an auto, it makes sense to train women in driving auto rickshaws.
Along with giving permits to women, the government has also ensured that the colour of women-driven autos is different from the ones that men drive. This is to ensure that the auto rickshaws driven by women aren't taken over by their male counterparts.
Sudhir Dhoipode, the man who trained all these women, is proud about having taught them the 'A to Z of auto rickshaw driving'. He is currently training about 40 women, and what is promising is that 500 more women have shown interest in getting the permit and becoming auto rickshaw drivers in the city.