What rolled out as women-friendly ‘pink’ autos in Thiruvananthapuram a couple of years ago has crossed the 300-figure mark with a change in nomenclature to ‘She Auto,’ but there is a hitch.
The Thiruvananthapuram City police’s ‘She Auto’ project to ensure safe travel for women and children round-the-clock has fewer takers among women auto drivers.
Interested, but no success
The City police say of the 300 auto drivers who are currently part of the project, only six are women. Efforts to rope in the remaining six women auto drivers in the city have not met with success, though they had evinced interest.
The police say these women are reluctant to stay put at one stand, a requirement under the project to ensure accountability. The police also tapped the Kudumbasree Mission to include more women but to no avail.
The police say even the women auto drivers who are part of the project have complained of health problems such as back pain.
Seetha M., whose auto was flagged off by Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala to launch the project last month, says she has been driving her autorickshaw for the past 13 months before which she used to operate an auto in the Nemom area as part of a Kudumbasree waste management team.
Seetha, who operates from the Pattom stand, says a majority of those who flag down her auto are women, probably because of the ‘She Auto’ sticker on her vehicle.
The scheme, she says, would help increase women’s safety.
“The tablet they have installed in my auto to provide real-time information regarding route, current location, and fare ensures security and reduces fleecing. If I demand extra money, passengers can complain to the police who are at liberty to cancel my licence.”
Seetha says tablets should be installed in all other autos that are part of the project. At present, only 12 tablets have been given, two of those to women, according to the police.
The device, Seetha says, also ensures that male passengers behave better with her. “Earlier, drunk men would use foul language with us, but that does not happen now.”
Her earnings from the auto, however, are not enough for her to make ends meet.
With her husband having cancer, she has to work as a domestic help too after her morning school and office runs are over.
Sometime after noon, it is back to ferrying passengers around the city.
City police Commissioner G. Sparjan Kumar said the main aim of the scheme was a women-friendly service. Women could come forward to drive autos if they chose to.