Despite being re-launched twice, the pink auto service in Gurgaon, meant exclusively for women, failed to take off.
The Gurgaon Traffic Police could not regulate it and hence the service can no longer be called a safe mode of transport for women. Men can regularly be seen boarding these autos and travelling with women commuters, especially in and around metro stations.
The Gurgaon traffic police lost interest in the project and the service, currently, functions on the whims and fancies of auto drivers.
Sometimes the drivers put a yellow top on the auto-rickshaws and carry all passengers and sometimes they change the cover to pink and pick up women passengers only.
Women find it unsafe to board a pink auto-rickshaw after dark. Several women commuters have complained to the police that drivers invite male passengers to share the auto. But, nothing much has been done.
"Boarding a pink auto is a difficult task every day. The driver wants to wait for the second passenger as they tend to incur losses despite charging more," says Neha Jaiswal, a daily commuter.
Daily commuters have made friends to share autos in the millennium city else they feel uneasy to share the ride with strangers. A group of 27 women have exchanged numbers.
They even board the metro at the same time so that they can commute together. Delhi resident Nandini Pahuja says, "This was required as it is economical and offers safe travel. Earlier, we waited for half an hour for the second passenger and the fare too was not divided."
Although, 22 pink autos are registered in the city and 10 more are in the process, yet women avoid travelling in them. They feel the drivers are not verified and pass obscene comments when they decline to board.
In the absence of a tariff mechanism, the pink auto fares are much more than the ordinary ones. Just to board an auto one has to pay a minimum of Rs. 50 and drivers charge Rs. 20-30 extra per trip than the regular ones.
Setting up of dedicated police posts at metro stations hasn’t helped much as cops are not strategically deployed. Bharti Arora, joint commissioner(Traffic) claims, "The pink-auto initiative did not work out. It did not turn out to be economical."
Rajesh Thakar, president of the pink auto union said, "We are facing problems and regret converting our autos to pink as the traffic police is not supporting us. We have no designated stands.
Experts believe the burden of extra charge extracted from auto drivers eventually falls on the commuters. They argue that the only solution is regularization of this sector to make meters mandatory, which the authorities have still not done in Gurgaon. If a policy is in place it will also take care of the infrastructure needs of the auto.