In a bid to maintain gender equality and break old age traditions, authorities in Kolkata have decided to train women to drive autos for their livelihood. Women are getting training by the various auto unions of the city and mainly belong to middle and lower-middle-class income groups. Nowadays, in the era of growing inflation, it becomes very difficult for middle or lower middle-class income families to sustain their livelihood and the move is being considered a good step towards women empowerment and to break the custom of the sole breadwinner in the family which is mostly men. Gopal, one of the auto union leaders in south Kolkata, who is guiding women to drive autos, said, “If a woman can be a prime minister, a president and a speaker of the legislative assembly, then why can’t they drive autos? These women belong to lower income family and we are training them to be independent”.
After getting fully trained to drive autos, groups of women will start a new auto service called ‘Pink’, which will only be reserved for the women passengers of the city. Talking about the matter to a news agency, auto union leader Gopal reiterated that till now he has trained over 60 women from the town. This is not the first time that this kind of exclusive service is being initiated for the women in the country. Last year, Maharashtra government had initiated a scheme where women were provided 5% reservation in rickshaw permits for women. Generally in India, if lower and middle-class women want to contribute to their family income, they only have the option of becoming a domestic help. But after these kinds of initiatives, they have the alternative to earn their livelihood.
A woman, who drives an auto in Kolkata, said, “My husband also drives auto. It is really difficult to manage our lives on an income of one person, so I started driving auto for livelihood”. As per the Census 2011, India’s population was 121.06 crore and the women constituted 48.5% of it. In 2011, the workforce participation rate at all India level was 25.51% for females and 53.26% for males.