Women will take over driver’s seats in five city buses soon.

They will be the proud owners of the vehicles too besides negotiating them through the busy streets of Kochi. The Urban Poverty Alleviation Department (UPAD) of Kochi Corporation will approach banks to get them to loan money to buy vehicles. The vehicles are likely to hit the roads in a couple of months.

Men will drive the buses till the women get heavy licence. All the other jobs, including that of the conductor and the cleaner will go to women. Though the bus will be owned and operated exclusively by women, the doors of the buses will be open to all irrespective of gender.

Kochi Mayor Tony Chammany said the project would be a step in empowering women in Kochi.

Several companies have offered support by extending financial support for the project as part of their corporate social responsibility. The support will be used to raise the gap fund for the project, Mr. Chammany said.

Mini buses of seating capacity starting from 27 seats, costing around Rs 17 lakh each, will be purchased. And Rs. 3 lakh would come as subsidy. The corporation plans to support the venture by identifying sponsors for buying the buses. The women entrepreneurs will obtain Rs. 5 lakh as loan from banks.

Four women groups with five members each have been formed for the bus service. Around 20 women, who now possess licence to drive three-wheelers, will be trained to drive heavy vehicles. The task of training them to handle heavy vehicles will be assigned to a city-based driving school shortly, explained A. Nisa, Project Officer of the UPAD.

Convincing the women about the tedious nature of the assignment was one of the early tasks undertaken by the project managers. The buses need to hit the roads by 5 a.m. and have to ply at least till 8 p.m. They were also enlightened about the difficulties involved in the job. Yet, 40 persons turned up for the project from which 25 were shortlisted, Ms. Nisa said.

Eight women backed out from the project as their husbands opposed them from going for the job. Some others were removed from the list after it was found that their husbands had government job.

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