Swachh Bharat Of­fers Cab Ride to Women for a Bet­ter Life

So­cial jus­tice min­istry joins hands with cab ser­vices cos to trans­form lives of man­ual scav­engers

The Economic Times - - Economy - Va­sudha.Venu­gopal @times­group.com

New Delhi: Mamtha Sangte (34) from Uj­jain is a black belt in taek­wondo. A man­ual scav­enger her­self al­most a decade ago, Sangthe was among the for­tu­nate few to break the cy­cle of caste and poverty and get trained to be­come a pro­fes­sional of her own.

To­day, she is a priv­i­leged guest of the Modi gov­ern­ment, in charge of train­ing — to start with 500 dalit women — all man­ual scav­engers or from the fam­i­lies, on self de­fence tech­niques. These women un­der ‘Swachh Bharat’ — the PM'S pet project that aims at mak­ing the coun­try open defe­ca­tion free by 2019 — have al­ready been trained to be­come cab driv­ers, and a month long train­ing on ba­sic mar­tial arts by Sangte will set them ready to drive com­mer­cial cabs in Delhi, Hy­der­bad, Chen­nai, Bengaluru and Mum­bai.

Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials told ET the min­istry of so­cial jus­tice has part­nered with Ola, Uber, Meru and air­port taxis to train 10,000 such fe­male driv­ers — all dalit man­ual scav­engers — by 2019. The PMO has man­dated that a monthly re­port of ‘Swachh Bharat’ be sent to it, which in­cludes a re­port by the Na­tional Safai Karam­chai Fi­nance and Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion that is look­ing at the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of man­ual scav­engers across the coun­try. Till March 2016, 12,226 man­ual scav­engers have been iden­ti­fied in dif­fer­ent dis­tricts in 12 states of the coun­try. De­tails from other states, said gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials are be­ing awaited. Of­fi­cials said .₹ 67.02 lakh have been re­leased for the train­ing and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of 2,390 man­ual scav­engers and their depen­dants, to start with, from April 2016.

To mo­ti­vate the women, so­cial jus­tice min­is­ter Thaavar Chand Gehlot and sec­re­tary Anita Ag­ni­hotri have been meet­ing them in parks, where usu­ally their self de­fence camps are be­ing held. “My fam­ily laughed at us when I told them I am go­ing to be a driver. They told me steer­ing wheel was not a toy. I was also scared. But af­ter three months of driv­ing, I may not be com­fort­able hold­ing a pen, but I know my clutch, gears and brakes re­ally well,” said Sano, who hails from Madan­gir. Sanu, a 21-year old mother of two got her driv­ing li­cen- ce only last week.

"They are also be­ing trained in soft skills, how to be­have with the cus­tomers and to make them feel com­fort­able," said MNa­graj, head of NSKFDC that is im­ple­ment­ing the pro­gramme.

Taxi com­pa­nies such as Meru, Uber, among oth­ers have shown much in­ter­est in re­cruit­ing women for their new fleet of cars, and the women, al­ready trained in driv­ing will be el­i­gi­ble for com­mer­cial driv­ing in the next few months, of­fi­cials said. Re­cently, talks to get these women to drive some of the 5,100 e-rick­shaws to be launched in Delhi, Gur­gaon, Ghazi­abad, Noida and Farid­abad are al­most fi­nalised, they said.

ANIR­BAN

Sev­eral ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the scheme that ET spoke to are school dropouts and hail from fam­i­lies where both men and women have been in­volved in man­ual scav­eng­ing. “Many of them just say it is reg­u­lar labour work, but some still help their par­ents with it. I have done it all through my child­hood with my mother and I know how dis­re­spect­ful so­ci­ety is to­wards us,” said Mamta.

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