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
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.
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.