Kashmiri girls on wheels of independence

Kashmiri girls on wheels of independence

Scooty empowerment

More and more women have been riding two-wheelers in Kashmir in the last two years. Not only in the city but even on the outskirts one can see hundreds of women, especially students, riding two-wheelers.

The trend picked up in 2010 when Jammu and Kashmir Bank announced its ‘Special Scooty Scheme’. It aimed at helping working women and girl students buy two-wheelers with financial aid of maximum Rs 50,000. This had to be repaid in 60 monthly instalments.While the move became a prized source of revenue for the bank and government, automobile dealers also benefitted, besides women and girl students.

For 21-year-old Samreen, a college student, the vehicle has given a sense of liberation from the daily hassle and eve-teasing she faced in using public transport.

 “Now I reach college on time and save some energy as well. Travelling in buses was an ordeal as I had to avoid lecherous glance of men,” says Samreen, chuckling. Working women also say the vehicles have given them the much-needed relief.

“I am a sales girl in a cosmetics company and the job requires a lot of travel. Buying a Scooty was the best option. Earlier, there were inhibitions due to sexist remarks from male colleagues. But it seems our society has adjusted to the idea of women riding two- wheelers,” says Afiya.

Honda dealer JK Stationers and TVS dealer Kashmir Motors, which are owned by a family, have sold over 2,000 two-wheelers in the last two years.

“We have sold 2,200 two-wheelers in the last two years. Demand picked up in 2010. Before that selling a two-wheeler to a woman was rare,” says Gowhar Ahmad, sales manager of Kashmir Motors.

Mahindra dealer Rahim Motors has sold over 400 two-wheelers since 2010. “Demand is still picking up and we have hundreds of orders this year,” says Umar, a salesman of Rahim Motors.

But there is a word of caution from the police. 

“Several schoolgirls ride two-wheelers without driving licenses and documents. One should be a trained driver first before taking on the wheels,” says Srinagar SP (traffic) Haseeb-u-Rehman.

He said it is hard for the traffic police to check documents of drivers. “We don’t have women personnel in the traffic department,” he says.

Motor vehicles department chief inspector Abdul Majeed Bhat says only 120 two-wheelers have been registered in the regional transport office from March 2010 to March this year.

“Most of the two-wheelers running in the city don’t have proper registration papers,” he says.

Most dealers have also started two-wheeler driving schools for women.

According to sociologist Bashir Ahmad Dabla, this trend speaks of a new wave of independent women who don’t need somebody to accompany them when they step out.

“Earlier, a girl in Kashmir travelling alone in a bus would not be seen in a good light. But that has changed now,” he says.

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