Lukewarm response to BMTC's free driving course

Lukewarm response to BMTC's free driving course

Classes are open for 1,000 women to learn bus and car driving; but only 120 have signed up so far.

The trainees are allowed to drive in traffic, though they are carefully supervised.

The BMTC is offering to teach driving to 1,000 women under a free scheme, but only 120 have begun learning.

Funds are coming from the Nirbhaya fund (see box), and trainees can opt for heavy vehicles such as buses and lorries, or light vehicles, such as cars and vans.

The programme was launched in mid-September, and 12 have signed up for heavy vehicles and 108 for light vehicles.

“It is not just for women of Bengaluru, anyone can take it up,” a top official says.

The training is provided in batches of 30, in morning and evening sessions.

Shruthi Shantharaj, who is learning to drive a car, finds the initiative productive. “It is free, and allows underprivileged women to learn driving, which otherwise is expensive,” she says.

She enjoys the classes, and says the trainers make sure every bit of the process is understood.

Shruthi has completed the training and has passed the driver’s test. “I am also interested to learn driving a bus, which will be taught only after a year,” she told Metrolife. Dr N V Prasad, managing director of BMTC, attributes the poor numbers to lack of publicity and awareness.

“I think a lot of awareness has to be created for women to get into this field; since it is a heavy-duty vehicle, and the working hours are more,” he says.

BMTC is getting inputs from BPAC, a group that aims to improve governance in Bengaluru, to improve its outreach. “We are meeting self-help groups and colleges across the city, issuing application forms for the campaign. We also meet candidates’ families if they have any questions,” shares Sushma Mahabala, lead (BSAFE), B-PAC.

Women have to convince their families and sometimes find a substitute to manage the house before they can sign up, she says.

She expects the numbers to improve in a couple of months. “Take any training programme for women. It doesn’t fill up right away,” she says.

Nirbhaya Fund and its uses here...

BMTC has received 7.5 crores under the Nirbhaya fund. The fund is marked by the central government in its annual Union budget to support initiatives by the government and NGOs working towards protecting the dignity and ensuring the safety of women in India.

Apart from providing training in driving, the organisation also aims at using the fund to -

- Provide general sensitisation training in terms of awareness and behavioural to 11,000 employees.

- Establish lounges dedicated to women in bus stops

- Expand the ‘Pink Sarathi Road Patrol Squad’, by adding 25 more jeeps.​

Who qualifies?

To drive a heavy vehicle, a candidate must either have two years of driving experience or be above 21 years.

“They can learn to drive the car or the bus; we offer both. But they can’t sign up for the heavy vehicle course without knowing how to drive at all,” says Jayanna M B, driver and trainer.

Trainees are made to drive in city traffic while trainers watch over them closely.

“It is not easy to drive in city traffic. The candidates must be enthusiastic to take up the challenge,” he says.

Prema Nadapatti


‘Hire more women instructors’

The first woman bus driver in the city, Prema Nadapatti, began her journey 11 years ago and says driving a bus was challenging only in the beginning.

“Women in the workforce ask me if I could teach them how to drive, but I can’t since I am not an authorised instructor. They feel uneasy when taught by men. We need more women drivers so that they can teach others,” she says.


Why the hesitation?

Officials admit driving a bus may not be every woman’s dream job. The hours are long, and the workload on the heavier side, given the traffic.

“But they can at least take up the car-driving course, which will help personally too,” an official says. With a car-driving licence women can also find employment as cab drivers with women-only pink cab aggregators.



For details about the free course, call BMTC on 77609 91348, 77609 79980 or 77609 91086.