Pandemic hit female auto drivers struggling with making even handful of money opens up for the first time; read full story here:
All the factors of society are getting into the worst conditions due to pandemic situation in the country. The condition is not just about economic barriers but emotional as well. Mid-day in an exclusive article covered few stories of such female auto drivers and here we bring you these stories:
Shusheela Prajapati, after her husband went under Covid complications last year she learnt to drive his auto to run household and her four children. Suffering through Mumbai’s traffic and rush was not enough when she faced harassment by male auto drivers, customers and useless stereotypes.
Susheela said the male-dominated auto stands are forbidden for rickshawallis like her. “They [male drivers] ask membership fees from me. I can’t afford R20,000-30,000, that too for just one stand. So, I pick up passengers on the go. When they found out I was trying different ways to do business, they started abusing me. They cast aspersions on my character in front of my husband,” she said.
After suffering from the harassment for 6 months Susheela filed non-cognisable offence complaint against auto drivers. “Things improved for a couple of days as cops came to the stand, but everything was back to square one. Even today no woman can go to some stands as they are the monopoly of men. I don’t know when things will change,” she added.
There is not just this one woman there are many stories which would blow your mind and let you know the bitter truth of reality on the ground.
“Many times, people wave to stop the auto but when they see a woman driver they simply refuse to board. In fact, many women also make fun of us,” said Sharmila Mhaparle, who lives in Pratiksha Nagar, Sion, with her husband, a driver, and their 13-year-old son.
She said she took up auto driving to support her family. “It’s an unwritten rule that women drivers are not allowed in the queue at auto stands. Even if I follow the queue, the male drivers jump the line blocking my turn,” said Sharmila.
“We understand the taunts and meaning of giggling, but I don’t pay attention to it. My aim is to get some money to support my family, these things don’t bother me anymore,” said Sharmila, who wakes up at 5 am, makes breakfast and lunch for the family and leaves at 8 am. She returns after spending 8-10 hours on the road. “We don’t expect any special treatment from male drivers or passengers, we just want them to treat us as humans.”
Sometimes when we see women in the different roles those are usually done by men over the years, we think that the society is coming to a change, we are accepting modernization but at the same time we should know about all these behind stories.