Meet the new face of Delhi`s public transport

New Delhi: Delhi Metro has around 70 women drivers. The capital`s state-run bus service recruited nearly 150 women as conductors during last year`s Commonwealth Games. From autorickshaws and cabs to heavy duty buses, women are steering many a vehicle in the public transport system and loving the challenge.A few years back there were not many women in Delhi`s public transport sector that is dominated by men, but now women are stepping on the gas.

Since many women work late night in offices, companies are providing women cab drivers. Azad Foundation, an NGO, has been training women cab drivers for the last two years. The women also get 15 days of self-defence training from Delhi Police before they start driving.

"We get several requests from people, especially women, interested in hiring women car drivers trained here. We ask them to enrol on our website and as per availability, we call them for interviews," said Meenu Vadera, who runs Sakha Consultancy, which facilitates the placement of women car drivers.

Chandi, 20, a cab driver, said: "I have not faced any problem as a woman cab driver. At times I have to drive during nights, for which I am paid extra money."

During the 2010 Commonwealth Games, the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) recruited 148 women in its 50 depots to meet the demand for conductors in its fleet of 6,500 buses.

"We had recruited 148 women conductors on a contractual basis during the Games. All of them are posted on various routes across the city and earn somewhere between Rs.4,500 and Rs.5,000 per month for eight hours of work daily," M.S. Sherawat, DTC spokesperson, told reporters.

The women conductors need a minimum qualification of Class 10 and have to register themselves with the employment exchange. They had to undergo training and avail of a conductor`s licence from the authorities before applying for the job.

"My husband runs a small grocery shop which was not enough to feed my children. I decided to apply for the job and my father-in-law helped me in getting the training and licence," said 32-year-old Kanchan, who travels on bus route number 503 between Malviya Nagar in south Delhi and Mori Gate in north Delhi.

Over six months into the job, Kanchan has started liking it.

However, for Sunita Chaudhary -- Delhi`s first woman auto driver -- it was not easy to take up the job and had to struggle even to get her licence.

"I had to fight with the officials to get the licence for driving an autorickshaw as they said `we don`t give it to women, so how can we give it to you`," says Chaudhary, who has been driving an autorickshaw since 2005.

A native of Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, Chaudhary in 2005 hired an autorickshaw but later got a loan from the government to buy her own vehicle - though even that was not easy.

"Initially, there were problems but now I am pretty confident and sometimes even drive during late night," she said.

Delhi Metro, which has become the lifeline of the capital, has recruited about 70 women drivers since 2002.

"There is a common recruitment and training process for male and female drivers. In Delhi Metro train, operators should also be customer relations assistants; and as station controllers, the job involves multi-tasking and women are good at it," said a Delhi Metro official said.

A woman Metro driver, refusing to be named, said: "I have been working for the last three years in Delhi Metro and I am happy to be behind the wheels. The job needs multi-tasking as we need to check signals, follow instructions."