By Cake Staff:
As of Monday, September 12, a new line of auto-rickshaws has been introduced on the roads of Noida. Painted in pink, they are exclusively for women, in order to make last-mile connectivity safer. In the initial phase, 25 of these will be plied in and around major metro stations (Sectors 15, 16, 18, Botanical Garden and Wave City Centre) as well as few of the major transit points within the city (Sectors 12, 22, 37, 82, 125), and in Greater Noida.
Conceptualised two years ago, these pink autos have meters and GPS fitted in them, along with protective grills that separate the passenger from the driver and from both sides of entry/exit. Apart from carrying the details of the driver, they will also bear crucial emergency helpline numbers (100 for police control room and 1090 for women’s helpline) and will charge fares similar to autos that ply in the National Capital Region.
The autos are modeled after the pink taxis that are prevalent in numerous cities across the world. While many of those are run by women, this line of auto rickshaws are oddly driven by men, somewhat raising security and safety concerns of these rickshaws at night, while missing an important chance to hire more women in a field dominated by men.
Moreover, 25 is too small a figure in order to cater to a sizable population. While more than 350 permits were supposed to be given out by the Regional Transport Office, only 52 applications had been received from drivers, of which only 25 were finally given permission.
An earlier report had outlined the severe enthusiasm gap on the part of these drivers who had stated a lack of promotion (they had to apparently read about it in the newspapers) and stringent restrictions like the requirements of a GPS system and working meters, as reasons to not apply for permits.
Digging deeper, a scheme of this sort has always been more of a quick fix to make transport safe for women without necessarily having to deal with existing spaces and make them safer and thereby more accessible. The very appearance of the rickshaw raises some concerns about its cage-like structure. While the intent seems to be that of ‘protection’, the design largely echoes and reinforces notions of having to place women in closed spaces and enclosures in order to protect them from a ‘dangerous’ world out there. Nevertheless, pragmatically, it can be classified as a step forward.
As is the case with having to use the women’s compartment in the metro, gender performativity will be given utmost importance in such a space. In order to claim this space, one has to look like a woman by having to perform the necessary expectations of clothing and conventional appearance. For a trans woman who identifies as a woman, it will be interesting to see if access to this service will be made available to them.
Featured image source: The Pink Auto Design Factory/Facebook. For representational purposes only.