22 women set to drive their way onto Mumbai roads as cab drivers

22 women are set to drive their way onto the city roads as cab drivers after training since the last fortnight; this is the second attempt to revive the participation of women in public transport

A group of 22 women from the city have fastened their seatbelts to challenge (and break) down the walls of a profession that is dominated by men. These enterprising women are being trained as taxi drivers, and they will soon be recruited by mobile app-based taxi services.

Edil Kartrak of WIAA along with women taxi drivers at their Churchgate office. Pic/Bipin Kokate
Edil Kartrak of WIAA along with women taxi drivers at their Churchgate office. Pic/Bipin Kokate

The Mumbai Traffic Police will be inspecting these trainees today, and later the Mumbai Police will be inaugurating a women’s driving centre at Churchgate.

This fleet of female cabbies has been trained in martial arts as well. The women have been recruited under an initiative taken by the Western India Automobile Association (WIAA), which has been training them for the last 15 days.

The state’s proposed City Taxi Scheme, 2015 will also include a clause for women drivers. The WIAA found these women through NGOs that empower women working in small-scale sectors.

“People read about female drivers (in public transport) abroad, but it is not the case here. We are trying to boost their confidence,” said Simran Virk who has been training these women on the driving simulator and on road (only for those who have a valid driving licence).

The women have also been trained in passenger etiquette. Combined with their martial arts training, they are ready to face any situation. Speaking to mid-day, Edil Katrak, WIAA president, said “We are working on tying up with Uber and Priyadarshini where these women can work as drivers and chauffeurs. Until that time, they will be provided employment at a private company.”

Their training will continue in the coming days as well. Presently, the Regional Transport Office (RTO) has been approached to expedite the process of providing learners and driving licences to the women.

Significant step
The induction of these 22 drivers is a small but significant win for public transport, which does not see a lot of women behind the wheel. Efforts have been made to induct women as drivers in these services, but they have proven unsuccessful. Priyadarshini and Viira are cab companies that offer taxi services for women, and employ female drivers.

Sadly, the response received by these cab aggregators since their launch has not been extremely encouraging. Susieben Shah, founder of Priyadarshini Cabs said, “We will be inducting these women drivers into our fleet. But the government should expedite the process of officiating the Phone Fleet Women Taxi Scheme (PFWTS). More women on road would also make the roads safer.”

Priyadarshni has 35 women drivers and also has permission to set up 200 vehicles. The PFWTS was added in 2012 to the existing Phone-Fleet Taxi Scheme, introduced in 2010. mid-day met five of the women driver recruits, who have been in training for the last fortnight (see Meet the ladies).

Meet the ladies

Khatija Khan, 24
Currently: A clerk in a law firm
She has been driving for 5 years
Over the last few days, I have seen other people earning more than what I make presently. These air-conditioned cabs do provide good business. I have also been taught martial arts over the past few days for self-defence. I want to give my family a surprise with this part-time job.

Fatima Mahida, 52
Currently: A housewife.
Received her driving licence in 2013. Fatima’s husband passed away recently. Her son works in the aviation industry
For all these years, I served my family and children, who are married now. I want to live my life and I always desired to drive a car. For me age is never a barrier.

Nazia Shaikh, 28
Currently: An advocate
I love driving my Chevrolet car. In the future, I want to have my own small fleet of cars that can run as mobile app-based cabs

Shabana Shaikh, 32
Currently: Cook and beautician
My kids were thrilled when I told them that I was learning martial arts and driving. I practice martial arts at home as well. One day, I want to drive a Mercedes.

Usha Jadhav, 29
Currently: On maternity leave
My husband was happy that I was taking such a bold decision.

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