Spurt in demand for female chauffeurs
New Delhi, Jan 31 : Twenty-eight-year-old Anita Jha, who has worked for many years as a domestic servant, is learning to drive a car. Demand for women-drivers is increasing, especially since the Delhi gang-rape incident of Dec 16, she says.
Not just Jha, many women like her have decided to take to driving as a means of livelihood.
"If Delhi is unsafe for women, let's have more women on the road. With a large number of women behind the wheel, such crime can be controlled. Female chauffeurs with proper self-defence training and gadgets like panic buttons in the car have no reason to feel scared, they are quite secure," says Diya Chaudhary, a trainee at the Institute of Driving and Traffic Research (IDTR) at Sarai Kale Khan in the national capital.
IDTR is run by Maruti Suzuki, and offers training in driving buses and cars, besides other vehicles. There are centres of the institute at Wazirabad, north Delhi and Sarai Kale Khan, south Delhi.
IDTR, at its centres across the country, trains about one lakh people every year, of which about 45,000 are women. In Delhi alone, it trains over 1,000 people each year -- 70 percent of the trainees are women.
"We have found an increase in demand for such training from women. Usually, we get around 15 people a month; as of now, we are getting 35 people for training each month," a trainer said.
Meanwhile, many cab services in the national capital said that after the Dec 16 gang-rape incident, women in the national capital region have been seeking out women drivers.
Nayantara Janardhan, CEO, Sakha Consulting Wings, a 24-hour cab service in the city, said: "We are getting more calls demanding women drivers, particularly after the gang-rape incident. Women cab drivers in Sakha operate round-the-clock in Delhi and the NCR region. For a year, we send them as private drivers on contract basis."
There are now 50 women working on contract as chauffeurs with Sakha.
Janardhan said the women chauffeurs receive training from the women's wing of Delhi Police, and also carry pepper spray for self-defence.
G Cabs, another taxi service that operates in Delhi has 25 women-only cabs, alongside regular ones. But women drivers at this service operate only till 8 p.m.
"Safety is a priority. The women cab drivers work only till 8 p.m. All our cabs come equipped with panic buttons which can alert the vigilance team in case of an emergency," Babita Nihal, CEO, G Cabs says.
Recently, the Delhi transport department issued a public notice, offering free training at IDTR to women from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes desirous of learning how to drive autorickshaws.
"There is great demand for such training. In just a week, we got over 20 calls asking about the offer of free training. We also visit institutes of industrial training and other polytechnic institutes in Delhi to encourage women to get behind the wheel," Mahesh Rajoria, general manager, Maruti Suzuki, said.