By Kailash Korde Hindustan Times, New Delhi.
In a first for the city, autorickshaws exclusively for women, driven by women, will hit the roads soon. Addressing the concerns about women's safety, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Transport Authority (MMRTA), a statutory body, has given its nod for the service in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR).
The authority, chaired by the transport secretary of the state, directed RTO officials to send a proposal to the government outlining the rules about the colour scheme for the autorickshaws and the dress code for the women drivers, besides reserving permits for the scheme. The authorities are yet to decide whether these autos will ply till late at night.
According to the MMRTA, the autorickshaws can carry only women commuters and their families. However, the drivers can ferry male commuters if they want to. Also, they have to display a board -- preference to women -- on the autorickshaws.
The city already has an exclusive women-only taxi service driven by women drivers, but their number is limited and most of them operate near airports and luxury hotels.
Currently, there were more than two lakh autorickshaws in the MMR, including 1.05 lakh registered in Mumbai. A handful of those in the MMR are run by women drivers, but are not exclusive for women commuters.
The MMR has witnessed several cases of harassment, rude behaviour and even sexual abuse of women commuters by male auto drivers. In one such case, two girls jumped from speeding autorickshaws in Thane when the drivers allegedly tried to molest them.
A senior RTO official, requesting anonymity, said in the wake of such incidents, the Thane regional transport office had moved the proposal to the MMRTA for the introduction of women-only autos.
"Once the state government makes the rules, the scheme will be applicable for the entire MMR," said the official.
It is learnt from sources that in the proposal to the MMRTA, the Thane RTO had suggested pink or orange uniforms for the drivers. Similarly for the autorickshaws, the colour scheme of pink, yellow or orange was suggested.
Such autorickshaws have already been introduced in a few cities in north India, including Ranchi, Indore and Gwalior.