The fact still presides that women are not equipped to tackle road rage issues or stand up to patriarchy which remains the dominant position in the mindset of the people in India. We all understand that the development of a nation has to address a gender-inclusive culture. Progress as we all know, is reflected in the safety of women in society. Therefore, the first thing that comes to our mind, is about enabling more women to be able to freely use public spaces and transportation, without a thought for their safety.
Keeping this ethos in mind, Maharashtra has started the pink auto rickshaws, in 10 cities within the state. This will be driven by women for women. Many are debating the sexual stereotyping of gender colours, but overlooking this aspect, the introduction of this mode of transport is a big move towards gender sensitisation.
Why Safety Needs To Be Prioritised, Come What May
This will also be a great opportunity for many unemployed women to get employment. Thus making more women feel safe at night, without the insecurity of taking up a job, that might require long periods of work hours, which can extend into the night. Often these are legit issues, that are a huge detrimental factor for women to compete with men at their workplace. Women have to leave early if they don’t have access to their own transportation. Thereby, often she has no choice but to let go of projects that might require extra hours at work.
The pink autorickshaws are definitely a huge change in the mindset of gender acceptance of professions, that for years have been mainly the domain of men. As feminists, it would surely be interesting to see women driving an autorickshaw across Indian cities.
Currently, in India, there are approximately around 8 million auto rickshaws that are plying on the roads. This also is the main source of daily income for millions of drivers as well as a major mode of transportation across income groups.
Interestingly the word “Rickshaw” originates from the Japanese word jinrikisha. which literally means "human-powered vehicle". This mode of transportation has seen a huge rise in numbers with the migration of people from towns into cities. The production of the modern auto rickshaw was started by Bajaj Auto in the 1950s. There has been no looking back since then.
The thing to look ahead for would be, if the women drivers of the pink autorickshaws can safely stand shoulder to shoulder with their male drivers in the stands at night, waiting for passengers. Also, will these pink rickshaws have direct access to police stations if a male passenger accosts or tries to molest the female driver during the ride?
We know India is still majorly patriarchal in its mindset, will men be okay and able to handle a woman driver who will drive them safely to his destination, without his fragile ego being hurt? The casual sexist remarks of a bad driver on the road are presumed always to be a woman. So to come out of all these prejudices won’t be easy for the women who will have the gumption to break the rules of public transportation driving in India.
Not forgetting that road rage and rash driving cases were 1.55 lakh in 2019 and it has risen to 1.83 lakh cases in 2020. In 2021 the number of cases increased to 2.15 lakh. Road rage is a serious reality and where do pink autorickshaw drivers stand in this space in the country, if they ever bump into a vehicle with enraged men in it?
We know that punishing a woman who oversteps, is always a brutal sexual assault against her.
Mohua Chinappa is an author and runs a podcast called The Mohua Show.