The Encouraging Purpose Of Mumbai Rickshaws' Newest Color Scheme

In a sea of black-and-yellow, these vehicles stand out. So do their drivers.

Mumbai's auto rickshaws are going to look a little different from now on.

Nineteen women recently started work as rickshaw drivers in the busy city, which is known as the financial capital of India. It's reportedly part of an effort to empower women by the state government of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital. As part of the initiative, which started in the district of Thane last year, five percent of rickshaw permits — which are highly coveted in Mumbai — are reserved for female drivers.

The women's rickshaws are distinguished by their salmon color, which is to prevent male relatives from taking them over. Similar initiatives around the country have seen women driving exclusively female passengers in pink cars, to keep them safe. The Mumbai drivers, on the other hand, transport both men and women.


"This job is much better than doing household work. I can make more money and it helps us secure our futures," driver Chaya Mohite told AFP. "I couldn't even ride a bicycle but today I can drive an auto rickshaw. I'm independent and it makes me happy."

Driving instructor Sudhir Dhoipode told the publication that he is currently training 40 women, and 500 others have expressed interest. The initiative hasn't been without resistance, however. Driver Anita Kardak said they have been "mocked" for their chosen occupation, but added that she hopes to "inspire other women to come forward and take advantage of this great initiative."

Others have worried the women will stand out due to the color of their rickshaws and be put at risk, but Mohite insisted they're "capable of looking after ourselves."

These women's entrance into the urban workforce, and the government's encouragement of such a change, is significant in a country that, according to recent statistics, has seen a decline in working women over the past several years. Women also have a tendency toward agricultural and domestic jobs. According to one report, they comprised 24.8 percent of the rural workforce but only 14.7 percent of urban workers.

Culturally, many women in India are held back from employment due to the expectation that their gender belongs in the home, as well as the burden of childcare. However, women's inclusion in the workforce could be majorly beneficial to the country's economy, with a 2015 study finding it could add $2.9 trillion to its GDP by 2025.

Cover image via Shutterstock / filmlandscape.


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