In a rare first for Bihar, over a dozen women autorickshaw drivers hit the roads in the state capital on Sunday, officials said.
Sarita Pandey and Pinki Kumari, two of the new drivers, were both excited and happy to drive an autorickhaw.
"My much-awaited dream was finally fulfilled today," Sarita said.
She said it was her decision to take up a new profession as an autorickshaw driver.
"I used to earn only Rs. 3,000 by working at a private school. But now I hope to earn at least its double if not more. I will be able to live a better life," she said.
Her views were echoed by Pinki and others, who began driving autorickshaws after being trained by experts, thanks to the Bihar State Autorickshaw Drivers' Association (BSADA).
"I know it is a challenging task to work as an autorickshaw driver for a woman like me. But I am ready to face it and prove myself successful," Pinki said.
Rajkumar Jha, BSADA general secretary, told IANS: "We have trained these women as autorickshaw drivers and helped them get a loan from banks for their own vehicles."
Jha said the association provided training to 35 women how to drive autorickshaws. In the first phase, 15 of them were selected to drive.
"All of them started their new career as autorickshaw drivers with learners' licences. They would be issued permanent licences soon," he said.
Jha said a private bank has provided a loan between Rs. 1.5 lakh and Rs. 2 lakh to each trainee to procure the vehicles. The women put in only Rs. 10,000-20,000 each. Every month, they would have to pay between Rs. 3,000- Rs 4,000 towards repayment of the loan.
The women drivers have initially been assigned to work on pre-paid basis from Patna Junction, Gandhi Maidan and few other places.
Early this year, the state government announced in the budget 100% tax exemption on any commercial vehicles purchased and registered in the name of women holding valid driving licences.