With no auto in sight, the pink prepaid booth at the Huda City Centre metro station collects dust. The dingy, dirty booth is currently being used to store an old swivelling chair and other miscellaneous items.
First initiated in 2010, and revived in 2013 and then again in 2015, the most recent ‘Pink Auto’ project was launched in Gurugram by DCP (Traffic) Bharti Arora and then Police Commissioner Alok Mittal, in an effort to curb sexual assault cases against women travellers.
The ‘Pink Autos’ launched at Huda City Centre and MG Road Metro Stations in Gurugram in 2015 were equipped with a GPS system, a panic button as well as a grill separating the driver from the passenger(s). Moreover, these autos were ‘prepaid’, meaning that officials designated specific autos to travellers and more importantly, they collected details of the auto drivers.
However, within the span of about a year, pink autos gradually disappeared due to reasons that continue to remain unclear. Some believe that the problem lay on the supply side, with autowallahs converting back to yellow autos to earn extra cash. “Because Pink Autos were prepaid and meant only for women, autowallahs did not earn as much as they would if they drove regular yellow autos. That’s why you don’t see any pink autos on the road anymore,” said Hukam Singh, an autowallah stationed outside Huda City Center Metro City Station.
Moreover, these autos were ‘prepaid’, meaning that officials designated specific autos to travellers and more importantly, they collected details of the auto drivers.
Similarly, Aman Yadav, ACP (Traffic), Gurugram attributed their disappearance to the lack of feasibility and sustainability, an otherwise well-intentioned initiative. He said, “The problem lay in the execution of this initiative. First of all, there were only 2 stops, at the 2 metro stations, which means that autos would have to come back empty to these 2 booths. At the end of the day, the autowallahs also have to look at their livelihood and whether they are making profits or not.”
Others, on the other hand, attribute the disappearance of ‘Pink Autos’ to a lack of communication and continuity of projects from one set of officials to another. Vijay, another autowallah said, “These autos have been invisible for the past 3 years. One DCP starts something but then when the DCP changes, initiatives like these don’t generally carry forward.”
Himanshu Garg, the current DCP (Traffic) in Gurugram, reinforced his lack of knowledge about the initiative. He said, “The ‘Pink Auto’ initiative happened before my time. I don’t want to comment on it because I don’t have much knowledge on it.” In fact, in the entire Traffic Police Station in Gurugram, there was not a single person who had a clear idea of what had happened to the ‘Pink Auto Initiative’. The inspectors and officers either made conjectures or cited their recent transfers as justification for their lack of knowledge on the topic.
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Despite the reason for their disappearance, travelling remains a matter of concern for young women and their families. Sanjana, a 21-year old Cabin Crew member at Indigo who travels regularly, said, “Travelling in autos is not considered very safe, anyone can come in because there are no doors. In general parents are also scared about their daughters in Delhi and Gurugram because these places have that image (of being unsafe) across the country.”
Women travellers expressed a desire to see a return of this and similar initiatives for their safety. Siri, a regular traveller who identifies as female said, “I don’t know the reason why Pink Autos went away. It would be great if they come back. It would be safe for girls and would be cheaper than cabs as well.”
“Because Pink Autos were prepaid and meant only for women, autowallahs did not earn as much as they would if they drove regular yellow autos. That’s why you don’t see any pink autos on the road anymore,” said Hukam Singh, an autowallah stationed outside Huda City Center Metro City Station.
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The ‘Pink Auto’ initiative has also been launched in other cities across the country like Noida, Surat, Bhubaneshwar, Chennai, Patna and so on, and has generally met with a similar fate of gradual extinction. The difference in some of these other cities is that the drivers of these autos were also women which was meant to make women passengers feel even safer. However, often times women drivers had to deal with harassment themselves as other auto drivers tried to steal their passengers and if they resisted, they vandalised their autos and cut their tires and seats.
Featured Image Source: Scroll