All-women pink autos make Assam debut
Bongaigaon, Jan. 25 (PTI): Assam has got its first fleet of pink autorickshaws to be driven exclusively by women for women.
Thirteen women from economically-challenged background were included in the first batch and given freshly painted pink autos here last week under the National Urban Livelihood Mission, said its Bongaigaon city project manager Kusumbar Choudhury.
These women were among 20, most of them married, drawn from a self help group (SHG) to be provided driving lessons by Dispur Driving Training School in Guwahati, he said.
The women were provided with the autos after two months of training, he said, adding they would wear salwar-kameez as uniform when on the road from morning till 6 pm initially.
Ten of the autos were donated by Bongaigaon Refinery and the rest three procured by the SHG with loan from a nationalised bank.
Pink autorickshaw service run exclusively for women and children is operational in cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Surat, Ranchi and Bhubaneswar, Choudhury said.
The idea of introducing special autorickshaws for women passengers came to Choudhury after a woman member of a SHG escaped an abduction bid while travelling in a three-wheeler in Bongaigaon town last year.
Manju Devi, a community organiser of the mission, said she encouraged these women to take up the new occupation as it will ensure safe travel for women.
The Bongaigaon Auto Union has lent support to the initiative and the 13 women drivers will be its members with each issued a helpline number to contact the police and ambulance service at times of emergency.
Purnima Paul Das, 36, who worked as a domestic help in Bongaigaon for the past 20 years, is excited about her new identity.
“I no longer have to work in households for a livelihood.
My husband manages to earn only about Rs 2,000 a month selling vegetables. At first I was nervous but now after a week of operating the vehicle, I am getting used to driving this autorickshaw,” Das said.
Saraswati Sahu, a widow in her 30s, said she faced hardship to support her family with a meagre monthly income of Rs 2,500 as an assistant in a beauty parlour in the town but now she is “confident of supporting my family with the earnings I get from the auto-rickshaw”.
Anaki Ray, in her late 40s, is proud to be an auto driver which she chose to become so that her inadequate family income increases with her contribution as her two sons are unemployed and her daily wage earner husband s does not get enough.
“Taking up this profession, I’ve something to look forward to now,” she said.
Another woman Mona Das, 32, who worked as a domestic help and is a mother of two had no income after her husband turned alcoholic and lost his job.
“I took to driving auto rickshaw for self-dignity and to support my children,” she said.