Thane women auto drivers drive a change
Mamta Jaiswal, a feisty 21-year-old, manoeuvres her salmon orange auto effectively on a jam-packed street, dodging inquisitive stares from men auto drivers.
Her salmon orange colour auto hits the streets at 6am, ferrying office-going women and college girls.
She is the youngest among the 100 women who have started driving autorickshaws. “I was unemployed and driving an auto has provided a source of income for me,” Jaiswal said.
The initiative of starting women special autos by Thane Regional Transport Office has given employment to hundreds of women from Thane while paving way for a safe commute for women. Thane is the first city in the state to start operating special autos for women.
Regional transport officer Vikas Pandkar said, “There are 100 salmon orange coloured special autos plying in the city. The objective of the service is to provide self-employment to women and also make commute safer for women.”
The autos will be driven only by women. Men passengers can be allowed. “One auto can provide employment to two to three women, who can drive the auto in shifts,” he said.
Most women who drive autos used to work as domestic help or cooks. The women auto drivers did not have a smooth start. The male-dominated profession was challenging — from comments from their male counterparts to not allowing them to park in the general auto stands, they had their share of difficulties.
Auto driver Saroj Patphode, 34, said: “Men drivers do not allow us to park autos in the stand and say that we have taken away their customers.”
She, however, added that many are supportive and helpful at times.
Pandkar said women should complain to the RTO in case of such trouble. “We will gradually solve the problems. The women drivers are being influenced by auto unions. They should come together and form a union of their own. If they demand auto stands, we will give them a separate one or reserve few spaces for them in regular stands,” he added.