- Even six months after issuing permits, the ‘salmon orange’ autos are nowhere to be seen
- The auto unions site safety of the women drivers as their top most concern
- Ranchi is the first city to launch ‘pink autos’ exclusively run by the women drivers in 2013
With Mumbai all set to join the club of Indian cities having female auto drivers, the state auto unions have recently put up their curious opposition over the ‘salmon orange’ colour of those.
In January, the Maharashtra’s transport department had issued auto driving permits to 548 women drivers, of whom 465 were from the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. However, even after six months, the ‘salmon orange’ autos are nowhere to be seen, said the Scroll.in report.
Though the state expected to launch the service by February, hoping that there would be a surge in women seeking a driving permit, yet the concern with the auto unions remains unresolved.
Salmon orange, called ‘aboli’ in Marathi is not an obvious colour associated with women, as is bright Pink colour in Ranchi or Rohtak, but the choice of colour is not the bone of contention.
Instead, the unions want the vehicles driven by women drivers to be painted black-and-yellow similar to the ones driven by men.
According to a Sroll.in report, Hemangini Patil, the deputy road transport officer of Thane, saying, “Unions say that women drivers would be unsafe if their autos are painted a separate colour because then they will stand out.”
In Thane district, only 76 women have applied for and received permits, out of the total 156 auto driving permits that have been offered over the past few months.
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While the auto unions site safety of the women drivers as their top most concern, however security doesn’t seem to be a priority.
Prakash Penkar, the Konkan region president of the Thani Zilla Rikshaw-Taxi Mahasangh, said, “According to the rule, if a woman is given a permit for driving an auto, then that vehicle can only be driven by her or another licensed woman – never a man.”
He added, “But lady drivers are not easy to find, so if women drivers fall sick or take maternity leave, the coloured autos will just be lying idle.”
In Maharashtra, where the state government issues auto and taxi drivers’ permits for only few hundred rupees, it is a mandate that the permit-holder must drive his vehicle for at least one shift per day.
Allegedly, for the remaining shifts, most drivers rent out their permit to others, often at rates as high as Rs 1.5 lakh annually.
However, Maharashtra can certainly learn some lessons from Ranchi’s female drivers. In 2013, Ranchi became the first city to launch ‘pink autos’ exclusively run by the women drivers, after which the initiative became a success story and was also adopted by other cities.
Now plying for almost three years regularly, the women drivers in Ranchi allege that they have never faced the issues as have been raised by the auto unions in Mumbai.
Shanti Lakra, a female auto-driver in Ranchi, claims, “We love the fact that our autos are pink,” adding she loves the distinct colour of her auto as it helps in establishing her identity that convinces the passengers with a safe ride.
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Lakra admits that she has faced a little harassment but iterates she has never for a single moment thought of to the fact that men are not permitted to drive pink autos.
Hinting towards a solution of coloured autos lying idle, Devi Diras, 32, one of the first female auto-drivers, said, “If any of us is on leave for a while or can’t drive because of pregnancy, we simply find another woman to drive our autos for a while.”
She further said, “Women drivers are few in number, but why should that be a problem?”
Currently, ‘pink autos’ are plying on the streets of Bhubaneshwar, Ghaziabad, Rohtak, and some other cities, with varying degrees of success.
-This article is modified by Bulbul, a staff-writer at NewsGram.