The Consumer Protection Council – Tamil Nadu, which faced a challenge in retaining four of the seven drivers it recruited for operating the metered autorickshaws it introduced recently, now has a cause for relief.

Its search for honest and reliable drivers could well end soon as the Women Entrepreneurs’ Association of Tamil Nadu (WEAT) has expressed keenness to the council to capitalise on the opportunity by training women in driving autorickshaws. Taking the council’s support, the WEAT will offer a fortnight-long training to aspiring women auto-drivers, including members of women self-help groups, and for securing driving licences.

The WEAT will link self employment-oriented trainees to bank credit under the government schemes by helping them to prepare project proposals, WEAT president Rani Muralidharan has said. According to a WEAT press release, interested women could register on or before April 10, 2013, over phone: 0431-4200040/ 9600779081 / 9488785806.

Fixing of electronic meters in autorickshaws has been a long-felt need in Tiruchi as the passengers are more often at the mercy of unscrupulous drivers. The rates they charge is even higher than the tariff of call taxis.

Hence, it did not come as a surprise that there was a groundswell of patronage from the public for the metered autos, but four of the employed drivers could not withstand the pressure exerted by autorickshaw unions and quit the job. Fares charged by the metered autos at the rate of Rs.20 for a minimum distance of 2 kilometres and Rs.10 for every kilometre thereafter, were much lesser than half of the prevailing rates. Ms. Muralidharan is certain that no autorickshaw union will intimidate a woman driver for operating a metered auto. The concept of women driving autorickshaws was working well in Chennai, and it could be replicated in Tiruchi as well. Since the question of bargaining with customers did not arise, the vocation should be a smooth sail for women.

They would be sought after more by women passengers. The women auto drivers would be allowed to do school trips, she said and assured their commitment to their job, citing WEAT’s earlier experimentation with training women as call taxi drivers. Two women who bought taxis by securing loans from the Tamil Nadu Industrial Investment Corporation (TIIC) now have regular school trips and are confidently into fulltime driving, Ms. Muralidharan said.