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Auto Drivers In Bangalore Might Just Become The Friendliest In The Country

By Pooja Roy:

In a hurry, you head off to the road, wave, and ask an auto driver “Bhaiyya, Sony World signal?” Pat comes back a straight faced reply, “50 rupees madam.

Perhaps, we can afford to pay a few extra bucks when we are pressed for time. But, every time one pays, it pushes another who can’t afford to, to pay too.

peace auto 2

I discovered that in a few localities of old Bangalore, autowallahs dare not ask for more than what is charged by the meter. So, it is not that the fare is inadequate, or the meter is not being updated with the fuel prices, it is bribery. Our negligence gives leverage to the drivers.

Dr. Huzaifa Khorakiwala and a young author and philanthropist Anil Shetty, have tried to play their part to stop this pandemonium. Dr. Khorakiwala, a scholar and a caring philanthropist, initiated “The World Peacekeepers Movement” in collaboration with the United Nations. Together with Anil Shetty, he launched a campaign named “Peace Auto” to alleviate this rolling problem of auto fares in Bangalore. With the Sanskrit phrase “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” (The World Is A Family) as the tenet, Peace Auto aims at bettering the relationship between auto drivers and passengers.

Following are the goals of this initiative:

  1.  Auto drivers to be courteous and offer a genuine smile.
  2.  Law abiding auto drivers to follow traffic rules, with training in safe auto service. Honesty in returning back customers’ belongings.
  3. Clean autos and well groomed drivers in uniforms, maintaining personal hygiene.
  4. Strict following of meter fare, elimination of refusals.
  5. Establish a strong community of auto drivers through Auto Drivers Cooperative and Peace Auto Welfare Fund to improve the quality of life of auto drivers.
  6. Consistent incorporation of feedback from passengers to improve the service.
  7. Inspiring both auto drivers and passengers to become Peacekeepers.

Upon asking, one Peace Auto driver mentions that he makes more business and gets more rides than normal autos. On top of it, he feels relaxed and assured of his steady income. In contrast, his friend, the driver of a normal auto, always feels anxious about the gamble of saying yes or no to the customers, considering the distance to travel, the fare to be asked, and the profit he might make.

According to the Peace Auto driver, it is like having to choose from a cupboard full of clothes and having to spend a lot of time choosing, but still being anxious about the choice of the attire for the day. He would rather have a compact closet to concentrate on the main job at hand, i.e. to drive auto to earn a living.

There are about 250 Peace Autos near the place I live in Koramangala. As the manager of the auto stand says, most of these autos are out driving as they are in high demand. There is usually a queue around 9 in the morning to serve passengers who take auto as a regular mode of transport. He adds that most of the drivers feel contend and happy, which makes the daily earnings worthwhile.

He mentions that it is beneficial for drivers also. A normal auto driver has to pay 200 rupees every day to the owner, taking away a major portion of his daily earnings. Peace Autos pay only half of this. Also, the Peace Autos have proper papers and thus don’t face police harassment. Peace Auto also provides insurance and medical benefits to the drivers, restoring the dignity of labour involved in the profession.

During another ride in a normal auto, I asked the driver if he knows about Peace Autos, to which he replied with a no. Upon explaining, he seemed interested and exclaimed that though he would like to switch over, the decision would be the owner’s to take. I do not know if many autos will switch over, but what I take back from the goals of Peace Auto is a resolve to not give in and pay that extra buck. Asking for more than the just fare disrupts the ease of transport and abates the honor of the profession. We are not really helpless any time, we always have the choice!

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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