| A member of the all-woman valet parking team at Medica Superspeciality Hospital in Calcutta steers a car. Picture by Sayantan Ghosh |
They have conquered the streets of Patna in autorickshaws. Now, they would venture out in taxis.
Bihar State Autorickshaw Drivers’ Association has decided to train women in driving taxis — a profession to which women in Bihar are completely alien.
The association has already trained and assisted 10 women in becoming autorickshaw drivers. On August 18, the women drove out on the streets of Patna in their new three-wheelers.
Driving taxis is not a new avenue for women in other parts of the country. In Kerala, you can spot several of them behind the wheels of taxis. In Calcutta a superspeciality hospital has an all-woman valet team to park cars of visitors (see picture). But in Patna, it is unprecedented.
All that is, however, about to change.
“Why should only men drive taxis? We have decided to train women to drive taxis,” said Rajkumar Jha, the general-secretary of Bihar State Autorickshaw Drivers’ Association.
He said: “We got a good response to our programme to train women to drive autorickshaws. Now, we have decided to train women to drive taxis as well. The training would start in the last week of September. The first batch would have 20 trainees.”
Jha added that making women (financially) independent was the only way to empower them.
Society at large, however, is slow to accept these changes. The women who have taken up the mantle to drive autorickshaws commercially often have to face taunts from their male colleagues.
“Another autorickshaw driver — a man — today (Friday) told me that this profession was not meant for women,” said Sarita Pandey, one of the women autorickshaw drivers.
She added: “I curtly asked him: ‘Is giving birth the only job of women?’ When he heard that, he apologised and went away.”
The independence that the profession offers, however, is compensation enough for them.
Sarita said: “When at the end of the day I see that that I have earned Rs 500 through hard work, I forget everything else. It is a great experience for me.”