Thane women auto driv­ers drive a change

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - NAVI - Megha Pol megha.pol@hin­dus­tan­times.com 100 women have started driv­ing au­torick­shaws.

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.

PRAFUL GANGURDE

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