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Permit pinch for female auto drivers

The decision of the regional transport authority not to provide permit to any new autorickshaw has shattered the dreams of many women.

The new batch of women autorickshaw drivers of the Patna Zila Autorickshaw Chalak Sangh, which comprises 45 individuals, are worried as their dream of commercial auto driving looks bleak.

Shashi Sinha (35), who lives in Phulwarisharif, said: “I feel completely lost. I don’t know what to do. I have already taken loan from a bank to buy an autorickshaw. The whole process has been initiated and now I have come to know that the regional transport authority (RTA) is no more issuing permits. How shall I drive an autorickshaw now? I am feeling helpless. My six-month training would be a waste. I had pinned a lot of hopes to improve our financial condition. We live in a joint family. My husband’s monthly income is only Rs 6,000. Driving an autorickshaw would have helped in the upbringing of my two children.”

Shashi’s batchmate Kiran Kumari, too, was not happy with the RTA’s decision. “I am an educated woman. I thought of joining commercial auto driving because I did not get any job despite appearing in many interviews. I am worried about my future now. I want to help my husband in running our family. If the RTA sticks to its decision, my hopes would be dashed,” said Kiran, who is an Intermediate passout.

Rajkumar Jha, general secretary, Patna Zila Autorickshaw Chalak Sangh, said: “The decision of the RTA has really affected the aspiring women auto drivers. On one hand, the RTA has decided not to issue any permit while on the other, it is issuing licence to four-wheelers. The authority has cited the problems of too many autoriskshaws leading to traffic snarls and pollution for not issuing any new permits but if this is the reason why are four-wheeler and two-wheeler licences being issued on a heavy scale every month. Are they not causing pollution or jams?”

Navin Mishra, the vice-president of the union, said: “It is a conspiracy by the state government (referring to the RTA decision). It plans to buy 260 low-floor buses and this is being done so that the scheme does not get hampered.”

N. Vijayalakshmi, Patna divisional commissioner and the chairperson of RTA, said the authority had received a proposal from the traffic superintendent of police and the police department that the number of autorickshaws need to be limited in view of the problems of snarls and pollution. “We would consider the proposal but it has not been accepted yet. Till further orders, RTA won’t issue new permits for autorickshaws,” she said.