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  Life   More Features  27 May 2017  Not the driving force

Not the driving force

THE ASIAN AGE. | DHAVAL ROY
Published : May 27, 2017, 12:13 am IST
Updated : May 27, 2017, 12:13 am IST

Females behind the wheel will almost always have accounts of being heckled and bullied by their male counterparts.

Even as female drivers and women-only fleet taxi services are on the rise in the city, passengers booking cabs at the airport have been refusing to be driven by female cabbies.
 Even as female drivers and women-only fleet taxi services are on the rise in the city, passengers booking cabs at the airport have been refusing to be driven by female cabbies.

If you’re flying into the city and book a prepaid taxi at the airport, you will be asked if you’d be fine being driven by a female cabbie. While many have no qualms about it, a large number of passengers have been refusing and asking for a male driver - in spite of the fact that professional women drivers undergo a meticulous training programme that includes driving, road knowledge, etiquette, car maintenance, and self-defence. Meena Pawar, the 28-year-old driver for Viira Cabs, rued, "There are days when we face major issues from passengers only because we are women and driving to earn."

The reasons for refusing to sit in the cab may be varied. Like Ayyub Khan, the day manager at the prepaid taxi stand of the domestic airport in Santacruz, said, "Male passengers usually turn female drivers down because they think women are slow drivers. Men are also uncomfortable if they want to smoke in the cab." It's only female passengers and those travelling with families that agree to or specifically ask for a female cabbie because they drive cautiously.”

Driving in the city, or anywhere else for that matter, has never been an easy ride for women, whether driving their own cars or professional drivers. Females behind the wheel will almost always have accounts of being heckled and bullied by their male counterparts. Like fashion merchandiser Pratiksha Saini says, "I've had people trying to cut me off or maintain a lane's distance only because they think I will probably cause an accident. It's infuriating." Professional female drivers are meted out the same kind of sexism. Like Rekha Salunke, one of the senior-most women drivers said, "Men treat women as secondary and this shows when they create a scene at the taxi counter. They accuse us of not doing our job well and being bad at driving.”

Meena PawarMeena Pawar

Cool cab drivers badmouthing female cabbies to regular passengers also do a big disservice to the latter. Like Eknath Parte, the supervisor of Viira Cabs revealed, "This has created a tremendous affect on the minds of the passengers." It's not just the male naysayers that are to blame. Family and friends of women drivers and women in general often add to the problem. Pratiksha said, "My friends refuse to sit because they think I'll brake too much while driving the car. They even ask me to stay on the innermost lane so people don't try to overtake me."   It's disappointing that women themselves don't support us. They either bluntly refuse to sit in the cab driven by female drivers or keep complaining about various things while we are driving.

Sushiben Mehta, Owner of Priyadarshni Cabs, said that there can always be exceptions and there is a need to get over the gender issues. Till that happens, female drivers might have to contend with being driven round the bend with prejudice and sexism.

— Inputs from Neha Tripathi

Tags: prepaid taxi, female cabbie, viira cabs