Suman manoeuvres her white and pink Ritz car through the narrow, uneven streets of Madanpur Khadar in Sarita Vihar. For the 25-year-old, talking to truck drivers or haggling with the parking attendants at taxi stands is a routine. Suman is a cab driver employed with one of city’s leading taxi services. She shows her HMV (heavy motor vehicle) driving licence as she gets ready to pick up her next customer.
Suman Verma is one of the 13 women who were trained to drive commercial vehicles by the Delhi police under its Parivartan Scheme. Under the scheme,
girls from underprivileged sections were chosen to be trained to drive with the aim to empower them economically as well as physically. They were also given training in self-defence. In view of the demand for women
taxi drivers, the police collaborated with licenced radio taxi services to provide training as well as an economic model where these women can earn and buy their own vehicles.
Suman found out about the scheme while looking for work to support herself and her six-year-old daughter. She was married off at 17, but, tired of the physical and mental torture at the hands of her husband and in-laws, she left their home. The training and the job, gave her the confidence she needed. “I now live with my parents. I found my freedom and a new life after I enrolled in the training,” she said.
She does night shifts and ferries male passengers as well. “So far, I have not used self-defence moves. But there were instances of men following my vehicle. On two instances, my car broke down in far-off areas. I parked on the roadside and spent the night in the car,” she said.
Tajender Luthra, joint commissioner of police, PM Security, who headed the initiative said, “These girls were given self-defence training by our women constables for three months.”
The idea, he said, was to bring more women in this profession which is dominated by male drivers. This would give them employment as well as provide safe transport solutions to women.
Maya Devi, 39 and Bharti, 30, are two other such women behind the wheels. While Maya Devi, also a resident of Khadar village drives a school van, Bharti works for a radio taxi company. “I have been able to send my son to an engineering college because of this job. Initially, my family didn’t support me. But now they are happy,” said Maya Devi. “Every time I go to the parking to get the car out, male drivers take jibes at me. Sometimes they make crude gestures. But now I know that I can handle a tough situation.”
Bharti, who lives in Sangam Vihar, said she has a supportive husband but it was a difficult task to get the family approve of her job and the risks involved. Her two children too are aware of their mother’s job and wait for her patiently at home. “Men always think that women will soon get tired
of the challenges in the job and opt out. But that is not true. The dignity and freedom that this work has brought has encouraged many other women to join the fleet,” she said.