As many as six Kudumbashree members were recently given e-auto rickshaws as part of the Smart City Thiruvananthapuram Limited (SCTL) project of the city corporation in Kerala. The e-autos initiative aims at creating livelihood opportunities for women in Kerala, as well as promoting a green mode of transportation, The New Indian Express reported.
“This is my first time driving an e-rickshaw. It is comfortable to ride and is both eco-friendly and cost- effective. Such an initiative by the government will help women get employment and earn a decent livelihood,” says Kavitha V, a Kudumbashree worker from Kesavadasapuram who is learning to drive an e-auto rickshaw.
The Kudumbashree district selected all the six beneficiaries based on their poor economic backgrounds and prior driving experience.
“Unlike the usual auto- rickshaws, e-autos have a different mechanism. Therefore, beneficiaries require special training. After a year of service, the vehicles will be registered under the names of the respective beneficiaries. The e-autos are equipped with automatic gear systems,” said K R Shaiju, Kudumbashree district mission coordinator.
Daisy, another beneficiary from Vallakadavu, said, “I have been an autorickshaw driver for over five years. However, I stopped driving following a surgery. Being a beneficiary, I can drive the e-auto and
earn a source of livelihood without worrying about fuel costs.”
Charging stations have been set up at Gandhi Park in East Fort. and three vehicles can be charged at a time. The e-auto will get a mileage of 80 km with a single charge. The battery gets fully charged within two to three hours, and the vehicles can also be charged using power plugs.
“The electric vehicles have been rolled out as part of the e-auto project at an estimated cost of `1.95 crore. The focus is to introduce more women drivers in the city,” said an official of the SCTL.
42-year-old Mary S has been an autorickshaw driver for the past 10 years, but the pandemic left her struggling to earn a livelihood and feed her family. “The introduction of e-autos in the city last September came as a relief. “I have been riding an e-auto since September and earn at least `500 per day. Passengers are also comfortable with the ride,” said Mary.
Last year, 28 women and two transgenders were offered a livelihood through the initiative.
Another e-auto driver, Beena Prasad said, “We were given a three-month training by Kerala Automobiles Ltd (KAL) which brought out these e-autos. I used to drive taxis before the pandemic and earn `1,000 per ride, for long distances. However, the lockdown left me with no work. I was looking for other options to sustain my family. This is when the e-vehicles were introduced.”
Susy Kochukutty, joint secretary of the District Auto-Taxi Drivers Federation said, “Fifteen e-autos by KAL are functioning properly but women driving the e-autos by Kinetic have raised complaints on technical issues with the vehicle. We have already approached the mayor and the authorities concerned.”