Women-only taxi firms rue govt neglect

With all concerned authorities stepping up measures to increase security of women in the city after the Delhi rape incident, it seems the transport authorities in the city are neglecting a key service that would provide relief for women commuters.

Driving point:  The cab services for women complain that without any financial support, it will be difficult to increase their fleet. File pic

The introduction of a female-only taxi service for the city is a step in the right direction, but is still a long way away. Nearly three years after two private companies started a taxi service for women with women drivers, the founders say authorities are not doing enough to promote their initiative, which was started with the objective to provide safe transport for women. Their initiative has not seen much growth due to the neglect nor has the state government done anything to promote this scheme.

Priyadarshini Taxi Services and Viira Cabs operate 20 taxis each and the purpose of this scheme was to ensure safety of women passengers travelling alone. However, due to lack of promotion not many people know that such a service exists.

Currently, both these cabs operate as a prepaid service plying only to the airport, specific corporate offices or clientele. They also have a prepaid booth at the airport, however there has been no attempt made to extend the service to railway stations. Moreover, the facility to hail the cab on the street is also not available to the operators (In the Delhi incident, the gang rape victim was unable to find a suitable mode of transport after watching a film in the evening and had boarded the private bus).

Both these operators have female drivers, and the cabs have been fitted with GPS systems for added security that are directly connected to the police helpline number 103. Moreover, both operators function under the category of tourist vehicles, and do not have the same privileges as the black and yellow taxis or fleet cabs.

“We have been asking the state transport department to open up dead permits even for us, but it has been on the backburner for a long time,” said Sushiben Shah, founder of Priyadarshini Taxi Services.

Preeti Sharma Menon, managing director of Viira Cabs, said, “Unless the government provides us some subsidy or financial support, we would find it difficult to increase our fleet.”

Transport sources said that currently there are no defined norms in the Motor Vehicles Act as well that would enable a particular status to these women cab service. These companies claim that there is a huge demand for their cabs, especially after 9 pm, but government apathy has hampered their growth. “The permits were given to these companies as a special case. They have to operate with fixed business and don’t have permissions in comparison to that given to black and yellow taxis or fleet cabs,” said a RTO official.  

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