Aqsa Anjum

Delhi-based Kiran Jain, a 49-year-old, has been struggling to meet her daily needs. Widowed at an early age, Jain is a single mother of a mentally challenged child. Instead for taking up typical jobs ‘meant’ for a woman, she decided to learn to drive auto rickshaw from Sunita Choudhary, the first woman auto driver in Delhi. Twice everyday, once in the morning and once in the evening, Choudhary conducts free auto driving lessons for interested women.

“I need to pay house rent of Rs 2,500. There is no one to generate income at home. I think if I learn this skill then at least I would be able to pay the rent and also to take care of my child,” said Jain.

Like Jain, Archana Kashyap too participates at Choudhary’s training sessions. Kashyap’s husband left her two years back. With no decent means of livelihood, she has decided to become an auto driver.

When asked the reason for the choice of the profession, Kashyap retorts, “If women can become prime minister and president in India then why can’t a woman be an auto driver?!” She claims to be a dedicated learner and seems excited to get her driver’s license.

In a city where women often find it difficult to travel due to harassing auto drivers, presence of female drivers may come as a relief.

“Nowadays autowalla harass women and charge more. When I start driving, I will charge through metre and will take special care for my female passengers,” says Kashyap.

Shruti Yadav, a 22-old-old student, had an opportunity to ride on Sunita Choudhary’s auto. “First of all, I was amazed to find a female auto driver. But then I was really happy to note that women at grassroots level are taking up such jobs. This is true women empowerment,” exclaims Yadav.

Sunita Choudhary, the woman behind all this is quite confident about her venture. With the upcoming Commonwealth Games, she feels women auto drivers will be more in demand. “Woman drivers would be more polite and welcoming to the guests during the Games,” she adds.

Her own story has been that of an inspiration for hundreds of deprived women in the city. She came to Delhi in 1992 after undergoing horrific domestic trauma. In 2001, she enrolled with the Institute of Driving, Training and Research (IDTR) to become the first woman auto rickshaw driver in the city.

All eyes would be on the road to see whether Choudhary’s initiative bore fruits.