Driving home a message

Driving home a message

Christmas and New Year are just around the corner and travelling across the city to take part in festivities, especially for women, can be a challenge. This is where a safe ride home becomes imperative. There are lot of cab services offered exclusively for women and these are also driven by women.
'Metrolife'  spoke to women drivers and representatives of service providers to understand the safety options involved in such a commute.  

Anuradha B M, co-founder of Go Pink, says, "We do not have women taxi drivers in Bengaluru. We have to hire and train them. There may be hardly 50 women drivers. So, the ratio is still less when compared to the female population that we may have to cater to. This is despite working two and a half years towards training women drivers."

"We cater to only women and men from their family accompanying them. Many senior citizens whose children are staying abroad book cabs for picking them up and dropping them to temples, hospitals etc," she says.

"Since it is the festive season, there are many people who will be partying or going to churches for the mass. We do cater to them depending on the behaviour of the client as we are also concerned about our drivers' safety when they go to such places during odd hours."

Most of these drivers are put through a training period of 60 to 90 days and face a skill test at the end of it. Post which they are all taught self-defense and put through etiquette training. They are also given English coaching classes to communicate with our clients. Roopa, a driver with Go Pink, says, "We hear remarks or derogatory comments while driving but we keep our cool because it is our duty to safely drive our customers to their destination. People purposely overtake you so we allow them to pass by slowing down."

Meera, a driver with TaxShe says, "We are all trained not to react to people who pass lewd comments. For safety purposes, we carry a knife and a pepperspray. But luckily we have not faced such instances till date." When asked about their uniforms, she says, "We do not use white uniforms. We use a black coat on coloured clothes so that as women we do not face any issues."

Pradeep Nayak, operations head of Women Cabs, says, "All our cabs have GPS tracking systems and panic buttons placed in all the vehicles. This is mapped to the operations team, including the boss. There are five people at the back end office. There is also an sms trigger with a timeline of 0-2 minutes."

"We have a routine mock drill with our registered clients as well as with the drivers. Till date there is no drop in these trigger controls but if the instrument doesn't work during the mock drills, we immediately replace them with our partner firms. In the night, we avoid bookings from isolated areas which could be risky. We ask the drivers to take the safest routes during night like Outer Ring Roads or main roads," he says.

"If a vehicle breaks down, then the nearby person reaches out to the drivers. We have about 25 people spread across the city and three to four people near the airport. The drivers are also being instructed to check air pressure in tyres, at least thrice in a  week," Pradeep adds.

Chayashree, a driver with Women Cabs, says, "I feel if more women begin to drive, then people will consider us on par with men. Then women cab drivers will not be an unusual thing. Once this is achieved, people's perspective will change and they will consider us like any other driver."  

Priyadarshini, another driver with Women Cabs says, "Most of our male counterparts driving for Ola, Uber or Meru cabs, are surprised when we go for pickup at the airport at midnight. They also have respect for us and our families as they feel we are very confident."

"Sometimes they also compliment us by saying, 'What are we going to do if women work at midnight and make us jobless?'"
Priyadarshini says with a smile.  

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