If there’s one thing most working women in India worry about, it’s the commute to and from work. With the transport industry being ruled by men, it often puts women at the losing end due to fears of sexual assault. The Gujarat government’s new initiative, The Pink Auto Service has been created to assist women and provide a safe substitute to conventional public and private transport services.
Started by women for women and young girls
Currently, a number of women and young girls travel long distances to get to their schools, colleges and workplaces on a daily basis and travelling can often become a dangerous affair. The good news is that the number of women with driving licenses has doubled since the year 2000, so women do drive to work. But, a majority of women depend on public transport and the newly-launched pink auto rickshaws have become popular among young girls and women. Gayatriben Jariwala, the SMC assistant commissioner said, “We have a batch of 70 women and 15 are ready to begin work. They have driving licenses and we also help them to get work from schools in the area. We have concentrated on girls’ schools and girl students for women drivers.” Though the service hasn’t been digitized with the introduction of an app, it has and still continues to gain success.
Empowering women commuters and drivers
So, how did this initiative begin? The Surat Municipal Corporation collaborated with Bank of Baroda with the aim of increasing the number of female rickshaw drivers and helping them own their vehicles through subsidies with an interest of 7%. Each female driver earns about 18,000 rupees every month which also allows them to put away some money for savings. Jariwala also said, “They can easily pay their monthly installment to the bank and also save enough money. We everyday read about harassment of women commuters in different cities. This is why we thought of this service which not only provides employment to women but ensures safe travel for female passengers.” Some reports suggest that the service plans to branch out to other Indian cities, like Mumbai and Noida.
However, due to a high demand of the pink auto rickshaws, the wait list to avail them is incredibly lengthy, which have women going back to mainstream transport services. But the plan to increase the number of pink auto rickshaws is definitely on the cards, which will surely help women commuters in the near future.
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