In an effort to empower women from economically weaker sections of society, Pune has introduced a new initiative.
Maharashtra Rickshaw Panchayat, an auto rickshaw drivers’ union in the Nigdi region of Pune, is using the most dependable mode of commute for the common man in India - auto rickshaw – as a way to help build financial independence for women.
Over the past year, the union has picked 100 women from across the city to join the auto rickshaw drivers’ workforce, by training them and assisting them in getting license and permits.
It has also dedicated an auto rickshaw stand at the Bhakti Shakti Chowk in Nigdi, naming it as Krantijyoti Savitribai Phule Autorickshaw Stand. Due to safety concerns, women drivers will be on duty only from 10am to 8pm.
“It was difficult for women to pick up passengers from the many men-dominated stands so we started this for them”, Baba Kamble, President of the Rickshaw Panchayat, has told media. He has also stated that most women were reluctant initially to become auto rickshaw drivers due to safety concerns, and it took the union some time to convince them. Many faced pressure from their families too, as auto rickshaw driving is often considered a man’s job. However, some women in the current set of 100 come from families which are already dependent on auto richskaw driving for their livelihood, with their husbands or fathers being in this profession.
Although in 2017 Pune had a similar initiative - Pink rickshaw project- with 30 women drivers, it had fizzled out over time and the vehicles were handed over to men. However, this time, things are looking more hopeful. Pune Mirror has quoted the assistant police commissioner (traffic), Nilam Jadhav, applauding the initiative.
“We were impressed by this move and assured that all needed support will be extended from our side. We will ensure that these women have a list of numbers on which they can approach us in case of any trouble,” she has told the daily.