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Women drivers in Allahabad turn rickshaw owners

The turnaround started in December when she was recruited by SMV Green Solutions to be part of Project Vahini.


PTI Last Updated at 05-08-2018 13:21:21 IST India
Women drivers in Allahabad turn rickshaw owners

From walking 10 km each day to pick up the rickshaw she rented for the day to drive her own, it has been a happy seven-month ride to independence and empowerment for Allahabad girl Maria.

The 23-year-old final year history honors student doubles up as an e-rickshaw driver in Allahabad, dropping off not just neighbors to their destination as she leaves her home in Ramapur, about 10 km from the city, in the morning but ferrying other passengers as well.

"Now that I own the rickshaw, I don't have to worry about returning it to the owner without having made enough money for the day. Also, I can ride it at hours convenient to me, where I can manage both my studies and household works," the spunky young woman told PTI over the phone.

The turnaround started in December when she was recruited by SMV Green Solutions to be part of Project Vahini.

The Allahabad based start-up, working with the rickshaw community to provide affordable, clean and safe mobility, has brought on board six women e-rickshaw drivers since its launch in December last year.

The Vahini fleet that operates in areas like Ramapur, Sarai Iniayat, Rajapur and Civil Lines in Allahabad aims at providing safe, affordable and green-last mile transportation.

"The project seeks to allay the perils of women from Indian families, especially in places like Eastern UP and Bihar, who have limited options for mobility," said Naveen Krishna of SMV Green Solutions.

The most noticeable achievement of the project, however, has been to successfully facilitate the ownership of the rickshaws for these women.

A 'Vahini' can purchase an e-rickshaw, which costs about Rs 1,86,000, with a down payment of Rs 15,000, enabled by SMV.

The company also helps them get a loan of Rs 1,45,000 sanctioned from the bank, that they can repay over 60 installments of about Rs 3,000.

"Creating an ecosystem where women can be seen as e-rickshaw drivers and owners is one way of empowering women and helping them realize their potential and be on equal footing with the men," said Krishna.

Sapna, another driver in the project, said she would earn Rs 600 a day but take home only Rs 200 with the rest going as rent to the owner.

Owning the rickshaw has been a huge relief, not just because it helped her more than double her daily earnings but also because it made juggling household responsibilities easier.

"I ride the rickshaw at hours suitable to me. It gives me time to take care of household chores as well," Sapna, who is in her early 30s, said.

It hasn't always been easy.

Convincing the families of these women to commit to EMIs and down payments was a challenge.

An SMV team, including Krishna, visited the homes of each of these women to persuade their families. Many thought an occupation like riding an e-rickshaw was best left to men.

"The challenge is an ongoing one," Krishna said.

Women rickshaw drivers also have to battle the stereotypical roles they are bracketed in by neighbors and families.

Lalita, another driver, said some neighbors have restricted the women members of their families from interacting with her.

"But we are putting in great efforts to assure the families of the benefits of an increased income for their well-being," Krishna added.

The safety of these women is also a major concern.

Fixed routes, CCTV cameras connected to smartphones, and collaboration with Mahila police stations are some of the steps that have been adopted.

"Smartphones store live data in case anyone tampers with the camera. The routes that the women drive their e-rickshaws on are fixed with a pre-reserved set of passengers," Krishna said, adding that they hope to grab the government's attention soon to make the project more efficient.

The start-up, which plans to expand to Varanasi, Patna, and Lucknow, aims at developing Vahini as an umbrella platform to bring together organizations working on women's empowerment in the transportation sector through a mobile app.

"These organizations can have partnerships and dialogues on the gap they face in fulfilling their objectives," Krishna said.

SMV hopes to recruit 40 women by December in these locations.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


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