In a bid to bridge the gender gap in the government services, the Himachal Pradesh Transport Corporation (HRTC) is now scouting for women drivers to run public transport buses, even though there are hardly any female conductors employed by the corporation.
“The corporation has launched a special drive to find women drivers to run the government buses,” said transport and food minister GS Bali. The transport department’s move to recruit women drivers came after a local girl from Shimla appeared in a driving test conducted by the HRTC.
“Local women are well educated. I was surprised when I learned that a girl appeared in the test for drivers,” Bali said. “The girl cleared the two phases of the test but made slight mistakes in the final one,” he said, adding that her initiative gave the idea to the department to recruit women drivers.
The transport department has asked the special driving schools being run across the state to encourage women to learn driving. “The department will train the women in the special driving schools before they appear for the driving test,” he said. The state-run transport has a fleet of about 2,200 buses that are driven by 3,500 drivers. There is no woman driver in the state so far.
Earlier, the government had encouraged women for the jobs of conductors in the government-owned buses but the move did not draw much response. There are only 25 women conductors with the HRTC and most of them have been adjusted in office-work.
Conductor recruitment has been marred by controversy since about 35,000 candidates appeared for the Transport Multi-purpose Assistants Test to fill up 680 posts on October 19, 2014. The exam ended up creating a political storm with 19 Congress MLAs challenging the selection process, alleging that preference was given to candidates appearing from Nagotra Bagwan, the constituency of transport minister GS Bali.
The HRTC will start a silver card scheme in the state. For the period of two years, commuters can avail of this card by paying Rs 20. Bali said 30% discounts would be offered on these cards on 119 routes across the state. He also said the HRTC would give double increment for those conductors completing 20 years in service and Rs 50 crore would be released to pay the dues of the employees of the corporation.