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Women drivers in Allahabad turn rickshaw owners
From walking 10 km each day to pick up the rickshaw she rented for the day to driving her own, it has been a happy seven-month ride to independence and empowerment for Allahabad girl Maria.
The 23-year-old final year history honours student doubles up as an e-rickshaw driver in Allahabad, dropping off not just neighbours to their destination as she leaves her home in Ramapur, about 10 km from the city, in the morning but ferrying other passengers as well.
“Now that I own the rickshaw, I don’t have to worry about returning it to the owner without having made enough money for the day. Also, I can ride it at hours convenient to me, where I can manage both my studies and household works,” the spunky young woman told PTI over the phone.
The turnaround started in December when she was recruited by SMV Green Solutions to be part of Project Vahini.
The Allahabad based start-up, working with the rickshaw community to provide affordable, clean and safe mobility, has brought on board six women e-rickshaw drivers since its launch in December last year.
The Vahini fleet that operates in areas like Ramapur, Sarai Iniayat, Rajapur and Civil Lines in Allahabad aims at providing safe, affordable and green-last mile transportation.
“The project seeks to allay the perils of women from Indian families, especially in places like Eastern UP and Bihar, who have limited options for mobility,” said Naveen Krishna of SMV Green Solutions.
The most noticeable achievement of the project, however, has been to successfully facilitate the ownership of the rickshaws for these women.
A ‘vahini’ can purchase an e-rickshaw, which costs about Rs 1,86,000, with a down payment of Rs 15,000, enabled by SMV.
The company also helps them get a loan of Rs 1,45,000 sanctioned from the bank, that they can repay over 60 instalments of about Rs 3,000.
“Creating an ecosystem where women can be seen as e-rickshaw drivers and owners is one way of empowering women and helping them realize their potential and be on equal footing with the men,” said Krishna.
The start-up, which plans to expand to Varanasi, Patna and Lucknow, aims at developing Vahini as an umbrella platform to bring together organisations working on women’s empowerment in the transportation sector through a mobile app.
SMV hopes to recruit 40 women by December in these locations.
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