Women cab drivers break stereotypes, but in dire straits

Seek transport minister's help to join KSTDC cabs at airport

Women cab drivers break stereotypes, but in dire straits

For women who break gender stereotypes to become cab drivers, equal opportunity is still a far cry as prevailing social conditions prevent them from earning on a par with men behind the wheels.

Three women drivers that DH spoke to shared their concerns of survival and growth in a sector dominated by men. Companies like ‘GoPink’ and ‘Women on Wheels’ have provided opportunities for women to work in a safe environment.

However, after driving for the companies for several months, some women drivers are looking beyond survival, seeking opportunities to grow.

Charulatha, who has been driving cabs for various companies for the past two years, said she along with a group of six women drivers met Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy on Saturday, seeking help for an opportunity to work with KSTDC cabs at the airport.

She said working with Ola and Uber was out of the  question unless one was ready to work at night. “We have not felt safe to work the night shift in any place, except the airport. But the person at the KSTDC cabs desk said they can’t attach women drivers. So we sought the minister’s help,” she said.

KSTDC managing director Kumar Pushkar said he was unaware of the incident. “We are launching an online application process within two weeks which will make the process of attachment of cabs completely transparent,” he said.

Charulatha said there were about 25 women drivers who are in situations worse than hers. “Many who came from other towns seeking opportunities here (Bengaluru) have returned. We work just like men. We invest the same effort and time, but we end up earning less,” she said.

GoPink Cabs, which is more of a social venture, focuses on training the women to drive cars, get driving licences and the yellow badge for commercial operations. “Except the airport routes, our operation is within 3 km in Rajajinagar. Men are not allowed to book cabs unless they are with their family. So, our patronage is low,” co-founder Anuradha said.

Kalyani Krishna, a driver who worked with another firm employing woman drivers, said she was promised a salary of Rs 15,000, but got only Rs 6,000. “Asking for an explanation made me a target. I have filed a complaint against the company with the Nagawara police,” she said.

Anuradha said many companies fail to see that running women cabs needs commitment.
“After investing Rs 12.5 lakh, we are finding it difficult to make GoPink a sustainable venture. We trained 30 women, but most of them did not stick with us, though we offer a salary of Rs 7,000 per month,” she said.

She said with limited patronage and without big investors to boost marketing strategies, such firms cannot offer incentives to drivers like others do.

Asha Vijayakumar, a 42-year-old driver, said women who buy their own vehicle find it difficult to pay EMIs. “There were days when I worked from 6 am to 11 pm in the night, but got few rides. It was tough to go home with at least Rs 350,” she said.

Anuradha said empowering women was a major challenge, but helping them sustain themselves was more difficult due to the prevailing conditions in society.

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