Get ready to be driven around Mumbai by Smart, Strong Women!
Gender equality is a sensitive, important, and simple subject that is unfortunately hard to grasp for most people. The reason being that men and women are very different from each other. People tend to forget that we are after all, human beings at the end of the day, irrespective of physical factors like Gender, Race, Colour, etc. Numerous attempts are being made to educate society about Gender equality through campaigns, laws, debates, opinions, etc. There has been significant progress in this regard and one such recent development was seen in Mumbai, where women rickshaw drivers were introduced through a new scheme by the Maharashtra Government that allocates five per cent of Rickshaw permits for women.
Will India accept Female Rickshaw Drivers with open arms?
We rarely see women in the garb of drivers in India, but this scenario is changing now, with women being allotted positions as Bus Conductors, Metro Train Drivers, Cabbies, etc. This move will prove to be highly beneficial to Indian housewives who rely solely on their husbands’/family members’ income. They will now be able to contribute to society, be an inspiration to others, become independent and confident individuals.
One such lady, Chaya Mohite who drive her way through Mumbai as one of the city’s first women rickshaw drivers said, “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.”
Maharashtra Government taking the right steps towards Gender Equality
The scheme introduced by the Maharashtra Government was announced in early 2016 and it was decided that 465 licenses would be allotted to women in Mumbai and Thane, according to the plan. To make the scheme more convenient, a separate set of auto-rickshaws, with a colour different from that driven by male drivers will be provided.
On the 1st of January 2017, 60000 new auto rickshaw permits were re-issued, out of which, 5 per cent was reserved for women. It’s never an easy task for a majority of the women in India to get themselves employed at jobs that are considered “manly”. Numerous fingers are raised against them and the so-called “moral pundits” rise when a woman is seen taking complete control over her own life. But despite these hurdles, it is truly wonderful to see how the women of India are realising the value of employment and independence.
The first batch of female Auto Rickshaw drivers consist of 19 women who have already started work after receiving training and guidance by Mr. Sudhir Dhoipode. He claims to have taught them the ‘A to Z of auto rickshaw driving’ as is evident from the fact that all of them successfully passed the driving test conducted by the Regional Transport Office (RTO).
The main objective of this scheme seems to be the true empowerment of Indian women, especially housewives and women belonging to poverty-stricken families who could do with taking charge of their own financial freedom.
Even in other states/cities of India, women-only auto rickshaws or women-driven auto rickshaws have been introduced. Cities like Ranchi, Noida, Gurugram, Ghaziabad have Pink Auto Rickshaws dedicated solely for women. Delhi also has a few female drivers. In the context, Ranchi is supposed to be the first state starting the pink auto scheme ahead of all after the Delhi gang-rape in 2012.
The Gender fight doesn’t end here!
These brave hearts have nothing to lose but everything to gain by going against societal norms and gender imbalance. But the biggest challenge of all is to stay protected from the violence that prowls the streets of our country, targeting women. Only with the co-operation of the government and the citizens will this brilliant move prove to be a massive success. Security will be of utmost importance for women rickshaw drivers and we hope that everyone will collectively work towards this goal.
Written By: Anju V. Nambiar